Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grade 3 Lightning Lit {review}

Every year I'm blessed to be presented with the opportunity to review curriculum I might not have found or chosen on my own.  This year, we found ourselves reviewing the Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set from Hewitt Homeschooling.  This program features literature, comprehension, grammar and composition.

Lightning Literature Grade 3

I requested this level for Emory.  He is seven and was close to finishing up the 2nd grade at the time we started.  He had completed his language arts program already, and I had yet to choose language arts for his 3rd grade year, so it seemed like a golden opportunity to try out something in hopes of finding a good fit for him.

What Is It?
The third grade curriculum consists of the Student Workbook and Teacher Guide, and requires the use of a poetry anthology and several chapter books.  The full list includes:

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Rickshaw Girl by Matali Perkins
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children edited by Jack Prelutsky

The chapter books are used in the order listed above, and The Random House Book of Poetry is used intermittently for a week at a time throughout the course between the book units.  Books are used anywhere from one week to seven weeks, depending on length.  Luckily I'm creating a personal library all my own, so we already owned several of the books and the poetry anthology.  I noticed that many of the books are listed on multiple living book lists, so at this point I'm comfortable using the books in our home for literature.  (One book is out of print, but looks to be still easily accessible.)

The Teacher's Guide is laid out clearly, with a great introduction as to how to use the program.  There are three main components to this program which are explained thoroughly in the guide, but they include the Reading and Comprehension (reading a passage and answering questions), Grammar and Mechanics (the workbook activities) and Composition (learning to write).  Additional activities, listed as optional, are included as well.  Then, it walks you through each daily activity, from scheduling the reading, possible answers for the comprehension questions, the daily workbook activity and how to help the student with the composition activity each day.  The teacher's guide is not scripted, but it is detailed and thorough, and I like that balance.

The Student Workbook is written to the student with large print and colorful graphics.  I'm not a fan of the font, but I see it often in children's workbooks, and he is not phased by it.  There are only a few exercises on each workbook page, which is ideal for our goal of short lessons.  There are a few activities that some might consider busy work (puzzles, coloring, etc.), but many children enjoy those, so I see why they're included occasionally.

The schedule is easy to follow.  It uses a five day schedule, but activities are only scheduled on the first four days, with the fifth day being an optional day for make-up or following rabbit trails.  This works great for us, because we work on a four day schedule due to co-op.

You can actually view a sizable sample on the website, so I highly recommend checking that out to get a feel for the layout of the program.

How We Used It
My two older children are seven and ten, and I find that the books I'm familiar with are good choices for both of them, so I've chosen to read the literature aloud.  (I've read a few aloud several years ago, but good books are meant to be enjoyed more than once!)  My 3rd grader does the assignments.  He is seven, and because I loosely follow Charlotte Mason homeschooling methods for grammar instruction, he has had no formal grammar outside of how it applies to reading/spelling instruction.  I was a little worried about starting a third grade language arts program, but it went really well!  It ended up being more gentle and scaffolding than I expected, and it starts strong right away, but it doesn't "pick up" where the previous program (2nd grade) left off, or assume prior knowledge.  This is important in the younger years where grammar progress is so varied from one child to the next, so I appreciate this feature.  It turned out, the grammar and mechanics was his favorite part of the curriculum!

My 10 year old has had a couple years of grammar, but has never done sentence diagramming, so I eventually folded him into that as well.  The rest is all review, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I liked the idea of introducing the diagramming in a "two birds, one stone" kind of way since I had the opportunity.  I just had him do the diagramming on a a dry-erase board since we only have one workbook, then they compared their answers.

We found the composition awkward, though.  The author suggests that some children may only write a few sentences, yet some will want to write a page or more, and either is fine.  At the same time, though the lessons are short, there are very specific instructions each day, and he seemed to find this restrictive.  He would get hung up on "the details" and couldn't see the big picture.  Then I thought about how from a Charlotte Mason perspective, based on his age, he's still a beginning narrator and is too young for composition, so I'm not particularly concerned.  We'll just continue to dabble in it slowly and let him progress as he's ready.

Final Thoughts
This is actually a great program as written, but is also very flexible.  It's no secret that we are Charlotte Mason inspired, and even though this program is not (nor does it claim to be) a Charlotte Mason curriculum, I find it can be compatible with our relaxed approach with some simple tweaking.  I can't speak to their lower levels, but for upper elementary, it can work.  It uses real books, and they are mostly of a living book quality.  The daily lessons include clearly separate components (literature, grammar, composition) and those can easily be spread throughout the day so that lessons stay short and the child isn't doing too much of one subject at one time.  The guide and assignments are flexible and easily tweaked for personal needs or preferences.  We prefer narration to strictly comprehension, but the comprehension questions give me an idea for open-ended narration prompts if the child needs a little prodding.  The author also respects the individual needs of the child, knowing that children will be reading and writing at different levels, and she allows room for doing the assignments in a way that works best for your family.  I think this program would especially be useful for families who want to bridge the gap between traditional textbook curriculum and a living book approach, but is should work for those on both sides of the spectrum.  Overall, I am pleased with this curriculum, and intend to continue using it, adapted for our homeschool style, for third grade!

The Crew has been reviewing various products for different grade levels from elementary to high school, so be sure to check out the other reviews!

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Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Nature Study: Mushrooms

I fully admit that I am not strong at nature study, but I am trying!  

Mushroom Nature Study
This post contains affiliate links.

Recently, I came across these little books, Small Adventures Journal: A Little Field Guide for Big Discoveries in Nature on Amazon and bought one for both boys.  They have great little prompts for mapping the neighborhood (we'll do the farm), cloud studies, tree studies, using your senses in nature, etc.  I figured this would be useful for giving us inspiration when I'm low on ideas.  The kids also like something more explicit than "study that tree" so this should be helpful for everyone involved.  Some prompts don't have the need for writing/drawing, but most pages have a space to record results.  A few activities will have to be done in a regular nature journal.

I found an activity called Make a Spore Print when I was browsing through it, and thought the kids would find that interesting, so when I saw mushrooms outside one morning, we got to it!  We had to take our regular nature notebooks for this one.

Mushroom Nature Study
Emory's mushroom in grass.  

We brought a variety of mushrooms inside to do the activity.  We looked at some caps under our pocket microscope.  I'm searching for a new quality microscope right now since they've outgrown their beginner one, but the pocket microscope gave us decent results!

It's really simple, and you can find basic instructions for this online, too.  The book said to use light paper for dark mushrooms and dark paper for light mushrooms.  It didn't specify if it was referring to the caps or the spores, and I've already clarified I'm no outdoorsy girl, so we did both, just in case.  

At the end of the day, we removed the glasses and found that these mushrooms did much better on the lighter paper, so I'd say these are dark spores!  I put clear tape over them to help preserve the print.

The first picture was from a mushroom that was still little bit more open and cone shaped, while the lower picture was from a mushroom that was more flat and rounded at the edges--the boys said it looked like a sombrero!  It's the one pictured under the glass above.

It was a neat experience, and we'll probably try to do it again with different types of mushrooms when we find some new ones to 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer School 2017

It sounds silly to say "summer school" but I guess that's what it is.  We aren't year-round homeschoolers, because we do not maintain a full schedule the way we do in the winter.  I need a break though--just to decompress, and to plan for the next year, and summer is just when we do it.

I think it's important to continue doing educational and purposeful activities, because I fully believe in engaging in ideas and being a lifelong learner.  Also, I don't want the kids to lose math skills, and keeping a light routine makes it easier to jump back into a full routine come fall.  So even though we don't typically use standard curriculum during the summer, we do make sure we're doing review and lighter studies.  We do this during the hottest parts of the day, but keep it light and informal, giving us plenty of time to enjoy summer activities as they arise.

We don't have a specific schedule, but I try to do a few things during the week.

Mathematics:  Both boys do math drills a few times a week, and the occasional 5-A-Day from Math on the Level to keep their skills fresh.

Language Arts:  Emory is the official reviewer for Lightening Literature Grade 3, but I've had Elliott listening in to the readings and doing the sentence diagramming.  Once the review period is over we'll set this aside for next year.

Reading:  They are continuing to have independent reading (and narration) during the day, and I continue to read aloud to them!  Elliott is reading Stuart Little right now, Emory is reading some readers and early chapter books, and I'm reading The Hobbit aloud to them at night.  They're also listening to Peter Pan on audio book.

History/Geography/Science:  We're doing a Wonders of the World project from Home School in the Woods, which is great for a light summer activity.  We were also just assigned a review for a USA Activity Bundle, great for state studies (and summer travels) and the bird cards are great for Emory, who is also still dabbling in his bird study.  Plus we still do nature study.  We work 10-15 minutes a few times a week, and that's it!

Other:  Vacation Bible School is coming up!  It's possible we'll have other review items coming through, but otherwise, we're just enjoying the light schedule and indulging in more interest-based activities.

That's it!  Simple, but it keeps us purposefully learning while still giving us plenty of downtime!  

©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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Year in Review (2016-2017)

Now that our school year is over, I've been looking back over everything we've done.  It helps for portfolio purposes as well as helps me plan out next year.  By this time last year, I'd already written up this year's "curriculum plans"believe it or not!  Needless to say, plans are for throwing out the window in the homeschool world!  We still had a good year though!

So here's an overview of what we used and loved (and didn't love) for the past year.

2nd Grade

  • Logic of English Foundations - Loved!  He completed another level and his reading exploded.  I'll definitely use this again with the girls.  
  • Lightening Literature Grade 3 - We received this right before the end of the "school" year to review, and I find it CM adaptable.  I'll have more to share later, but definitely feel like we could use this for his 3rd grade LA 
  • Reading - Lots of quality readers and non-fiction (nature/science) books were his preference this year
  • All in One Homeschool Math 2 - I had started this as an interim program while we searched for a good fit for him, but he ended up liking it and I left him there.  He could have moved into 3 but we're keeping it light this summer so he's just reviewing for now.

4th Grade

  • Logic of English Essentials - We found this dry, tedious and time consuming, though maybe the newer edition is better.
  • Easy Grammar 5 - After reviewing another LA program in between, I found this one to be the best fit--short and simple lessons, but quality material.  I'll probably carry this over into 5th grade.
  • Reading - various books for reading practice
  • Teaching Textbooks 5 - His choice, but he ended up not caring for it at all.  He found the lessons long and way too many practice problems considering the type of review they do.  He did well though, so I let him reduce the amount of work as long as his work still showed mastery.  He does not want to use this again.
  • Math on the Level - This is a review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and I'm trying to get into a groove with it since it's summer time, but I know I love the 5-A-Day Online component!  It's fabulous for both boys for summer review!  

I only offer her activities as she desires at this age.  I do not require formal schooling at 4 years old.  These are activities she enjoys and requests, and we definitely go at her speed.  
  • Preschool workbooks - if she's wanting hardcore worksheets, I whip out some basic preschool books.  She works in these at her own pace, and only when she's interested, but gets practice with alphabet, numbers/counting, matching, patterns, etc.
  • Before Five in a Row - My favorite resource!  Lovely living books and simple activities!

Family Subjects

  • Apologia Astronomy - After a review they wanted to continue, but it didn't suit us for the long term.  I really wanted to love it, but one year on one topic was too much for me.  We made it through the first semester, but couldn't muster through after Christmas.  If it were a semester course, we might have been able to finish it with different thoughts.
  • BFB Early American History - I wrote a Final Thoughts post on this already, so I won't go into detail, but I found it CM friendly--living books and the guide was adaptable.  I will likely buy more of their products going forward.  They're on my short list for next year in a couple of subjects.
  • Five in a Row - This wasn't our primary curriculum, but we did a few units to tie into our history studies (and this also got us some of our science during the second semester).
  • Art - They took art at co-op and learned about Benjamin West in our history.  They did art at home through various lessons from FIAR, ARTistic Pursuits, Art for Kids Hub and ArtAchieve (review); we'll carry over the remaining ArtAchieve lessons into Art/Handicrafts first, since they are subscription based.
  • Music - Music Appreciation class and beginning guitar lessons at co-op, Christmas program and exposure to a variety of music through casual listening
  • Poetry - We love Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization though I am inconsistent with it.  I'm trying to figure out a plan for next year so I don't forget it.  It's so quick and easy to do!   
  • Other -AWANA, Jr. Church, co-op, play dates, park days, numerous fun reviews, nature study, farm fun, learning about the elections and voting during an election year, field trips, family reunions and so much more . . . 

I have no doubt that there was learning and growing and maturing that could never be quantified in a blog post!

As for myself - I've been doing better this year about summarizing our monthly activities.  When I first started homeschooling and blogging, I often did Weekly Wrap-Ups, but that just isn't happening anymore.  Instead, I resolved this year to to do monthly summaries.  So here's more details about our year!

©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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

MarshMedia (review)

MarshMedia, which originally started in 1969, offers health focused videos to schools.  The variety of videos they carry cover topics such as health, nutrition, hygiene, puberty, social-emotional issues and more.  Now owned by Dan and Brenna Witcher, they are currently offering a Homeschool Special that may be of interest to families who want to utilize additional resources to teach or review these topics.


For the purpose of this review, I was given two months free access to their streaming materials. MarshMedia currently offers over 50 of their most popular titles through streaming. This gave me time to watch a variety of videos to determine what would be appropriate for my crew.  My three older kids that would potentially be watching the various videos are 10, 7 and 4 years old.

MarshMedia assures that their videos do not discuss "sex education" even though that terminology is often used interchangeably with puberty and health education.  Their focus is on Health and Puberty.  With this focus, however, there will be references to things like intercourse or drug use, or other sensitive topics.  There are clear descriptions and recommended grade levels for videos, so it shouldn't be hard to determine which videos will be appropriate for your children, but I always recommend that  parents preview materials first to make final judgement calls and be prepared for discussions.

Since my children have a wide age spread and the preschooler was often present, we kept our viewing to some of the basic topics covered in the K-3 or K-5 videos, such as Wash Those Hands and Take Care of Your Skin, Hair and Nails!  They were informative and educational, but not particularly full of new information.  We're pretty much "learn through life" when it comes to health and hygiene, so most of the videos within their age range cover topics they are already know.  The videos average 15 minutes, but they were usually slow paced, and occasionally repetitive, so my two oldest (7 and 10) felt like they got everything they could from the videos before they were over.  My 4 year old enjoyed these types of videos though!

There is also a section of Character Education books, some of which are available to stream, which all feature animal protagonists and explore various challenges like bullying, sibling rivalry, or anger.  I saw one title, Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley, that I recognized from my beloved early elementary curriculum.  This one wasn't available for streaming, but I decided to poke around at some of the others, and these were pleasant.

Final Thoughts
The videos are definitely reminiscent of the health and puberty videos we watched in public elementary and middle school, though some seem to be relatively updated.  There's nothing particularly flashy or sensationalized.  They are simple and straightforward, with the sole purpose of educating.  Other members of the crew are reviewing MarshMedia, so please check out more reviews for additional perspectives.

If you wish to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce the MarshMedia curriculum to your home schooler(s) click here for details.

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

MarshMedia Reviews
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Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Peek into our Homeschool: May 2017

May was kind of a slow month as we transitioned from school mode to relaxed summer mode.  Our school year is officially over on paper, but I still have to finish our portfolios to have them evaluated.

Emory had finished his language arts program back in early April, with nothing particular picked out for next year, so when we had the opportunity to review a 3rd grade language arts program, I jumped on it.  He's trying out Lightening Literature Grade 3 from Hewitt Homeschooling.  I have Elliott listening in to the readings since he's never read the first couple of books.  The grammar concepts are review, but I do have him diagramming sentences with us on a whiteboard, since his grammar program doesn't have him diagramming.

Emory's still enjoying his Burgess Bird study.  We'll continue this through the summer, though maybe not at the recommended schedule, because it's great nature lore.

The kids finished out the AWANA year a couple of weeks ago.  I had one in Puggles, Cubbies, Sparks and T&T this year, and all the big kids finished their books.  Emory is moving up to T&T next year, so I won't have a Sparky for the first time in five years.  I may be a little sad about that.  Next year, it's Puggles, Cubbies, and two in T&T.  Then Eloise will move on and I won't have any more little ones in Puggles.  I am definitely sad about that.

Of course the spring weather has been wonderful!  We've switched over to more outdoor play, nature walks and that kind of fun.

We had a lot of fun reviews post during the month of May, so here they are, in case you've missed any:
ArtAchieve -- really fun, plan to finish the projects
Algebra for Breakfast -- great math enrichment program for 3rd-6th grade
Captain Absolutely -- comic book/graphic novel style book for kids
Kwik Stix -- Heart Eyes Emoji for my favorite art supply for preschoolers
The Typing Coach -- quality program, probably great for an auditory learner
Milton Hershey -- Fascinating book with unit study

I'll be sharing more about  upcoming reviews in our Summer School post, so stay tuned for that.  And lest you think my kids are the only ones doing Summer School . . . I have a Summer Reading List as well!  The biography is completely new for me--it's a review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine website, but I hope to get it on the blog eventually!

©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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Milton Hershey Unit Study {YWAM Publishing Review}

I have heard a lot of good things about YWAM Publishing, so when we had the opportunity to review one of their books, I was intrigued.  I looked through the Heroes of History titles to see who would line up with our history studies.  Then I thought, since we're finished with formal history for the year, why not choose someone we're unlikely to study in the course of a traditional history program?  Upon seeing the book Heroes of History- Milton Hershey by Janet and Geoff Benge, I knew I'd found a great choice!  It just sounded like fun and I knew the kids would enjoy it.  Who wouldn't want to study the man behind the famous chocolate bar?
YWAM Milton Hershey

The Book
Milton Hershey: More Than Chocolate is a 192 page paperback.  Although I thought we'd be getting a diversion from our regular history studies, Milton Hershey's childhood years took place during the Civil War, which is where our current studies had just ended.  The book does an excellent job of weaving in current events and how they affected Hershey's childhood and life in general, so we actually got a lot of incidental but relevant history just through reading the book.

I requested the study to use with my 10 year old son, but we were using it as a read-aloud, so my 7 year old began listening in as well.  We found the beginning, Milton's childhood, a little slow-paced at first, but once it got to his apprenticeship making confectionaries, the boys became more interested.  It became our lunchtime reading, and both boys really enjoyed it.  They were always stopping to ask questions or admonish at something crazy Milton did or to discuss one of his failures.  Due to the wanderlust and get-rich-quick schemes of Milton's father, and Milton's own failures and successes, we had plenty of opportunity for discussions about happiness, contentment, perseverance and more.

YWAM Milton Hershey
You can't read about a confectioner without eating his chocolate!  

The Unit Study
YWAM generously sent a digital copy of the Milton Hershey Unit Study Curriculum Guide as well.
The Unit Study comes in two main parts.  The first section is how to utilize the guides depending on your situation.  The Homeschool section even includes a timeline for using all of the books/guides for a thorough U.S. History curriculum.  The fact that they include small group and classroom options means the studies could be great for utilizing in book groups or co-ops as well.

YWAM Milton Hershey

Then the Unit Study section is specific to expanding the specific book in a variety of subjects, including:
Essay Writing
Creative Writing
Reading Comprehension
Public Speaking

Part One has all of the material and suggestions, while Part 2 has a printable biography sheet, map and timeline.  We have done a lot of literature-based unit studies over the years, so I'm very familiar with them.  The recommendation of 10-15 years old is pretty accurate.  There are enough activities to engage younger students, but many of the topics are appropriate for older students to study in-depth.  For instance, some of the topics include the history of Pennsylvania, wars, transportation during Hershey's lifetime, the Great Depression and more.  This book and unit study certainly stand on their own, but I could see them being extremely useful as an addition to a Pennsylvania state history course or as part of an elective on Business or Entrepreneurship.

YWAM Milton Hershey

We focused on the vocabulary and chapter questions, but I also went through the recommended reading materials to assign independent reading.  My 7 year old loved the suggested non-fiction reader about the history of chocolate, and my 10 year old read a literature book that I wasn't familiar with, but he found interesting.  There's another famous chocolatey literature selection that immediately came to mind, and the book and movie are both mentioned in the guide.  Those are already family favorites, but since it's also an upcoming book in my 7 year old's language arts program, we're going to enjoy it all as a family again very soon!

Final Thoughts
The book is well-written and engaging.  Hershey Milton was definitely an interesting person, and my kids were actually captivated and fascinated with this man.  The unit study adds another dimension to your studies, and is useful for a variety of ages.

The Homeschool Review Crew has 100 reviewers total discussing 30 other books and unit studies, so be sure to check out the variety that YWAM has to offer!

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Christian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

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 the fact that some of these lovely books are older, so there is some 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 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.  There's the Geography, and the History of Science that both look great.  We might be interested in the new Around the World program, but it won't be out until September, and I've not seen any samples or booklist yet, so that's a long time to wait to make a decision!  Husband and Emory have both mentioned Ancient Egypt, so starting a formal history rotation is also an option.  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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

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}

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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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Friday, May 19, 2017

Freebie: History by the Decade Coloring Books

I have a fun FREEBIE to share today!  Bonnie Rose from Write Bonnie Rose has created  History by the Decade Coloring Books.  These were too neat not to share!

Each coloring book includes pictures and copywork, and gives a basic overview of major events in American history and events around the world that impacted the United States.

I wanted to share these because they are a fun addition to modern history studies, especially if you have younger children participating who can't do full notebooking exercises.  I'm not usually a freebie blog, and I try to only share things that I will use or I think would be beneficial to others.  I've been going through noting which pages will line up with our studies for next year, and have found some great stuff!  The kids will get a kick out of the technology pages (everything from the phonograph to Wii and Playstation!) but I love that she touches on a little bit of everything--musicians, artists, presidents, sports figures, fashion and trends and iconic images for each decade.  The coloring books cover the 1920's - 2000's, with nine books total.

These are a limited time freebie, but definitely worth checking out!  I've worked with Bonnie Rose a few times over the last few years, and I know she has some great things on her website, so be sure to look around while you're there!

I received advance copies of these freebies.  I have not received any other compensation for this post.  

©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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Captain Absolutely

I'm always looking for interesting, but appropriate, books for my boys, so I was pleased when we were able to review a book published by Focus on the Family called Captain Absolutely.  Written in comic book style, it is a spinoff from an Adventures in Odyssey series that was originally featured in Clubhouse Magazine.  It sounded promising on many levels.

Captain Absolutely

The basis of the story is that Josiah King is at the library during a computer explosion, and between reading the Bible for the first time and mysterious radioactive fumes, he transforms into superhero Captain Absolutely.  He must save Metropolitanville from Dr. Relative and other villains.  Dr. Relative was at the library during the explosion too, only he wasn't affected by the Bible.  He landed in the philosophy section and came into contact with relative truth and the idea that everyone makes their own rules.  His mission is to destroy God's word and Metropolitanville.  The book takes us through several episodes of Captain Absolutely dealing with Dr. Relative, Fear Chemist, Farmer Vile and other villains, as they create multiple version of a Lirus, fear-us clouds, vile ants, and other things in an attempt to ruin the city.  Captain Absolutely, however, is able to use God's truth and wisdom.

As a comic, the dialogue is fast paced.  The illustrations are full of bold colors, action and the classic onomatopoeia!  Whenever Captain Absolutely mentions or quotes a Bible passage, the reference is written in the illustration outside the speech bubble.  I like that this is included for the reader if they want to explore it further, but also just to show that each of these statements are more than just comments by the "superhero," but are also Truth.

At the end of the book, there is a Character Guide with fun facts about Captain Absolutely, his sidekick Hana, and the other characters in the book.  Finally, there is a section called Big Questions.  These questions are obviously meant to get the reader thinking about how we treat others, how we share the truth, how we deal with sin and asking for forgiveness.  Kids can read them on their own, but parents or trusted adults may want to use the questions as discussion starters.

This book definitely has kid-appeal.  My boys (seven and ten) were intrigued as soon as they saw the cover!  I think the target age range would be mid-elementary through middle school, though I fully believe the book is certainly appropriate for all ages.  The graphic novel style will make it appealing to any child who is interested in comic strips, comic books and graphic novels, even if they don't love to read.  Ask me how I know!

If you are looking for clean entertainment for your children, Focus on the Family offers the Odyssey Adventure Club, which allows you to stream Adventures in Odyssey episodes, and includes a subscription to Focus on the Family Clubhouse Magazine (U.S. residents), a monthly web quest, and other members-only content.

To find out more about this book, be sure to check out the other crew reviews!

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Captain Absolutely {Focus On The Family Review}

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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Beautiful Feet Books: Buffalo Bill

The final study in Early American History - Primary, from Beautiful Feet Books is a look at Buffalo Bill and the removal of the Native Americans from their homelands.

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The only required book for this study was Buffalo Bill by Ingrid & Edgar Parin d"Aulaire.

Like the others, the book is well-written, if not a tad outdated.  The boys enjoyed it, though.  It focuses on William "Bill" Cody and how he became known as Buffalo Bill.  The assignments were consistent with the rest of the study, with a focus on notebooking.  There were only 4 lessons for this book, so it was short and sweet, and gave me time to include a couple of extra books with it.

I added two books, because that's just how I roll.

by Stephanie Salomon

We have a few of the books in this Come Look With Me series.  They offer several pieces of art work with background information and leading questions to really get the kids thinking and observing. This  book specifically focuses on artwork from different eras and tribes from across the country.  I included it because it helps us study the actual culture, diversity and artistry of the tribes.  While it's important to understand history and what happened to the Native tribes, it's also important to learn about them, who they were and are, their culture.  We used this book for discussions over lunch.

by S.D. Nelson

I chose this book for two reasons.  I wanted to include the authentic voice of Native Americans in our study whenever possible.  I've seen Nelson's books recommended, and this is a beautifully written living book.  It acts not just as a biography (though it is written in narrative, autobiographical form), but a living history of Black Elk's tribe and the cultures and customs, as well as a look at the general time period and the removal of Native tribes.  It includes both drawings and real photographs, which my boys appreciated.  (Just a note - one photograph shows a mass grave, so sensitive children might need this page censored.) The other reason I chose this book is because Black Elk was part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, so it gave us a different look at Buffalo Bill as well, and I was interested to see how he was portrayed.  The author said Buffalo Bill paid them and treated them fairly.  This book is wonderful on its own, but turned out to be a great addition to this study for the broader perspective on the general time period and giving us a little more information about Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Tours.


There's so much more we could have explored with the west and Native Americans, but we're going to come back around to that.  Overall, this was a fantastic study!  I will probably be writing a "final thoughts" type post soon, because I still have more thoughts rumbling around in my head, especially as we try to narrow down curriculum choices for next year!

©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.  http://www.moms-heart.com