Monday, March 19, 2018

Home School in the Woods {review}

My kids love playing games, and I am trying to intentionally incorporate more fun into our homeschool.  When we had the opportunity to review some of the À La Carte Projects from Home School in the Woods, I let the boys peruse the many choices.  The options include crafts, games, timelines, lapbooks, newspaper projects and more, from different time periods throughout history.  My boys chose Battle Blitz! and Journey through the Middle Ages, both of which are games.  I knew we had some Fun Fridays in our future!

Home School in the Woods is a hands-on history program, and they design their products to be fun, engaging and interactive.  The games we chose are digital downloads.  Each download includes clear instructions for printing and assembling.  The instructions tell you specifically which pages to print on paper or cardstock, and if it should be colored or white paper.  Some of the pages need to be printed front-to-back, so you must be careful to adjust printer settings accordingly.  For our games, the question cards were like this.

Once everything is printed, then it's time to color and assemble!  Minimal supplies were needed.  File folders (as these are file folder games), colored pencils, scissors, and double-sided tape.  The only other supply we needed for one of the games was a standard six-sided die.  There were a lot of cards and game pieces to cut out, so my paper trimmer from my scrapbooking days would have been handy!

Battle Blitz!

Home School in the Woods  Á La Carte products
My 11 year old requested Battle Blitz! because the name intrigued him at first, but he was even more interested when he realized it was about the American Revolution.  He is currently immersed in this time period in history, so it was a very fitting choice.  The game is part of Time Travelers: The American Revolution set, and is a Revolutionary War themed file folder game.  Players first choose an army:  British Solider, American Soldier, French Soldier, American Indian, American Frontiersman, or German Hessian.

The instructions suggest to start with a subset of the questions, and I thought this was a good idea since we haven't finished covering this time period, and we aren't using the actual Time Travelers set. I figured the game would give us a fun way to review some of the content we've learned, and throw in a few new facts as well, so I carefully chose the questions ahead of time.

Each space on the board is representative of a battle, so as players answer questions correctly, their army "wins" the battle and covers the space.  If a player answers wrong, other players have the opportunity to answer the question and win the battle.  The idea is that the more the kids play the game and hear the questions, the more the information will sink in.

The individual questions are quite varied, and we found questions about pivotal events leading up to and surrounding the war, famous people, battles, important documents, and more.  Elliott would be so excited when he realized he could answer these questions because he had read about the event in one of his term biographies.

Side note:  I probably should have laminated the small soldier markers, but the boys were in a hurry to play for game day.

Journey through the Middle Ages

Home School in the Woods  Á La Carte products
Journey though the Middle Ages is another file folder game, this time from Project Passport: The Middle Ages.  Players can choose to be a Knight, Nun, Monk, Peasant Woman, Noble Woman or King.

Like the other game, the goal is to review and learn by answering questions.  When you answer correctly, you can roll the die and move that number of spaces.  The objective is to reach each castle, "attempting to be the most well traveled adventurer in the land" and secure a matching color card from each area of Europe.  The winner is the person who collects all six cards first.

We found this game took more time, for two reasons.  It was chosen by my 8 year old, because he wanted to pick a game related to his history too - however, it covers a much wider scope than the events surrounding single war, and it was harder for me to choose the subset of questions, because there was more information we hadn't covered yet.  I just went into it knowing there would be more wrong answers, thus taking longer to progress.  The other reason it took longer is because you aren't moving in a straight line around the board; you have to move strategically across the board and land exactly on a castle to claim a colored card.

As for the questions, there was again quite a bit of variety.  Famous people and events, as well as general facts about the way of life were all represented.

Some Final Thoughts
These games are designed for approximately 3rd-8th grade, for 2-6 players, so they are great for siblings or even sibling teams.

I will say, I found the directions (regarding the reading of the questions) a bit ambiguous, and we found ourselves winging it, but I don't feel that it affected the purpose of the game.  We didn't initially laminate, but I would recommend it for durability.

For the purpose of reviewing, this game does the job!  We are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, and do not use a traditional textbook/study guide approach, nor do we typically use these types of questions.  However, the game play makes for a fun alternative for reviewing, and we found that much of the information questioned in the game has been covered through our living books.  You can even make your own question cards, which means the game can be adapted specifically to your individual needs and curriculum.

The kids have had a lot of fun with these games!  It's been a nice way to add some review and learn a few new interesting facts about different time periods, and a way for the boys to connect over history since they are now studying different time periods.  The crew has reviewed a large selection of À La Carte products, and we're eyeing the Pirate Panoply and Name that State games next!  If you're wanting to take a peek at the large variety that Home School in the Woods offers, I suggest you check out more reviews!

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©2011-2018 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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Charlotte Mason Pre-K: A Mid-Year Peek at our Year 0

Since I have been sharing updates for the big kids, I thought I would share how things are going for Year 0.  I technically have two Year 0 students, Eleanor (just turned 5) and Eloise (just turned 3), but in reality only one of them is currently eager and precocious and bugging me to do school all the time.

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Even though this post will mostly focus on Eleanor, please don't think my three year old is left out.  She inserts herself, rather assertively, when she wants to join in on the fun.  Now, back to the topic at hand.  I will say, since we did our transition back to a more pure Charlotte Mason approach with the older kids, I felt a sigh of relief in regards to the littles, as well.  My natural tendency of just let them be in the preschool years suddenly felt justified.  There was no need to plan anything.
"A child will have taught himself to paint, paste, cut paper, knit, weave, hammer and saw, make lovely things in clay and sand, build castles with his bricks; possibly, too, will have taught himself to read, write, and do sums, besides acquiring no end of knowledge and notions about the world he lives in, by the time he is six or seven."  ~ Charlotte Mason

Eleanor, at barely five, can do almost everything on this list already.  I'm finding that when I follow their lead, the results are far more valuable, because they are wholly engaged and learning exactly what they need.  So in following their lead, we just take it one day at a time.  It is so much more natural and in-tune with my relaxed tendencies anyway, so it is working rather nicely for all of us.

Literature/Living Books
Eleanor listens in to a lot of the boys' books (audio books in the car, free reads over lunch, etc.) but I want to make sure she has special book time with me.  We're working through two book sets this year.  The first one is Before Five in a Row.  I had actually intended to use B4FIAR this year, but the truth is - I was already lousy at planning preschool when I knew in my heart it wasn't truly necessary, so we weren't really getting many rows accomplished anyway.  I'm still using the books from Before Five in a Row (and some related titles), because they are lovely books.  I just don't have a schedule or plans or expectations.  I like this book list because even Eloise, with her short attention span, will listen to many of these.  The Pre-K class at co-op is also using Before Five in a Row, so it's fun for Eleanor to tell me about the book they read, then for me to pull it off our shelf for a bedtime reading!

The other set of books I'm working through is the Beatrix Potter set we own.  I wanted to also pull some quality books from the Ambleside Online Year 0 list for Eleanor, which we've unofficially used even when we weren't following AO.  I try to just mix these in with the other titles, because as quaint as they are, I couldn't just read straight through a dozen books by one author.  Again, I don't have a reading schedule or plan, and I don't ask for narrations, though she does offer them regularly.  We just read, enjoy and sometimes reread our favorites of course!

The girls listen to the boys' poetry frequently, as I usually read those over lunch.  Well, Eleanor listens.  Eloise tries to talk over me, but that's another issue for another day.  However, sometimes Eleanor will ask for her own poetry book, and The Real Mother Goose is great for the girls.  I found our copy at a book booth when Elliott was using AO Year 0 and it's been a mainstay for years!  I also bought The Real Mother Goose Coloring Book for Eleanor, because she loves to color, so sometimes she does a page out of it.


Fine Arts and Handicrafts
She joins the boys most weeks for Picture Study, Folk Songs, Hymns and Composer Studies.  She loves doing art, and currently our favorite supplies are Kwik Stix paint sticks, Magic Stix markers, and watercolor crayons.

A bird trying to get grapes.  

For Handicrafts, both girls have spent some time making bracelets and necklaces from a wooden bead kit.  Eleanor has also been enjoying Super Beads, which are great for younger kids, especially since they do not require an iron.  I'll have more on these in a review next week!

Again, there are no formal academics, but Eleanor is precocious and begs for school-ish activities, so I follow her lead.  Sometimes she wants to do "letters" (early reading lessons) and we do some gentle CM style lessons.  She's in the CVC word building stage, but she knows a few other words that we haven't explicitly covered, and does stuff like this when I walk away.

Sometimes, she does a little workbook or worksheet because she asks for it, but I don't ask her to at this age.  She also plays around on Reading Eggs, Math Seeds, Starfall, La La Logic or CTCMath.  We received all of these as reviews at some point.  When she requests to have school on the computer like the boys or to play the iPad/Kindle, these options give her something relatively appropriate to do.  She does these activities at her pace, and occasionally Eloise will sit with her and watch or play around on the app a little herself, particularly with Starfall.

Nature Study/Outdoors
She loves playing outside - no matter the weather!  She won't be the one to pick up bugs, but she likes jumping in puddles, squishing in mud, digging in the dirt, examining rocks, birdwatching and picking flowers.

Of course, she loves to draw, and is always drawing birds, flowers and trees.  This was the series she drew when the boys were studying an evergreen tree.  I think it's time to get her a nature journal of her own, and probably a sketch book just for her drawings.  There are always drawings everywhere.

That's our Year 0.  Natural, informal, child-led and simple.  Yet rich and full of learning.  I'm realizing that with Charlotte Mason, I can facilitate and provide direction, but they get to own their education.

©2011-2018 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.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mid-Year Update: AO Year 4

Now that we're halfway through our first year of Ambleside Online, I am sharing some of our thoughts on the individual years and books.

I shared our Mid-Year Update for Year 2 recently, and now I'm sharing Elliott's experience with Ambleside Online Year 4 so far.

A little backstory:  he did a few weeks of AO Year 1 for first grade before we went back to a more relaxed approach for the rest of the year.  As he got older and we folded Emory into the mix, we continued to homeschool with a strong Charlotte Mason influence, but I was reading almost all of our living books aloud.  When we transitioned back to AO and Elliott had to take on a lot more daily reading, I was worried that his "I hate reading" attitude would be a stumbling block for us.  However, I am thrilled that he has risen to the challenge!  He almost never complains about having to read multiple books a day or about the books in general!  I think the rich quality of the books and the short lessons make it very doable.

Although we studied Early American History last year, I didn't hesitate to have him cover part of it again, at a higher leveler and in much more depth.  Year 4 also covers world history during this time frame, and we didn't have that broad of a focus last year, so I love that we're getting two streams of history.

He was a little miffed about not starting This Country of Ours at the beginning, but he handled it well enough.  He says it is boring, and some of his narrations reflect that attitude, while some of his narrations are fantastic!

Year 4 also covers world history during this time frame, and we didn't have that broad of a focus last year, so I love that we're getting two streams of history.  On a side note, at the beginning of Term 1, A Child's History of the World had I think one chapter scheduled.  It felt completely random and out of place, but perhaps because we didn't come from Y3 and had no connection to the book or specific frame of reference.  As for George Washington's World - the weekly reading schedule seems to be divided into five short sections.  Since they are all short and topical readings, it makes sense to just do a short reading every day, but we do 4-day weeks so I try to combine two shorter readings, and make sure he's not doing a long literature reading that day.

Just for fun, here's a little sneak peak of Battle Blitz, a game we're reviewing and using as a supplement.

Instead of the recommended Benjamin Franklin biography for Term 1, I used Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia.  I already owned this particular book, because it was part of the previous program we were going to use.  It's a quality living book in its own right, and could be divided perfectly into the term's allotted readings, so it made sense to use what I had so we could start immediately.  (You may remember, we made the switch drastically and suddenly, and I was mostly using e-books otherwise until I could order the physical books.)  I had him do a few written narrations from this book, but his oral narrations for this book were usually some of the best for the week.  He may have been a little Franklin'd out after he started showing up in his other history and science readings second term, but he didn't voice actual displeasure.

We're reading the Abigail Adams biography now.  He's read a few chapters on his own, and I've read a few to him at his request.  He doesn't love it, mostly tolerates it.  The book is dense though, so it's probably better that I do read it with him so I can measure when to stop and narrate.  I am enjoying the book, so I hope my enthusiasm rubs off a little.

I decided to let him work on Y2 Geography with Emory, as they had initially asked to stay together for some subjects.  Elliott would have been using a Holling book for geography anyway, and I already had all the Beautiful Feet Books maps, so I figured this would be a good subject to combine.  This way, he will get at least two Holling books, and I only have to facilitate mapping for one at a time.  I am loosely combining the AO and BFB reading schedules.  He says Geography is one of his favorite subjects, even if the maps aren't the neatest.  We've finished Tree in the Trail and have started Seabird.

He also started map drills back up.  It was one of our least favorite/most forgotten activities first term, until I remembered the AO recommendation for Seterra Geography.  He really loves this option, and loves trying to beat his accuracy and time!  It also helps to have another computer-based activity to break up his reading/writing subjects.


He does well with Storybook of Science.  Even though it's one of the easiest books, I do let him read along with the librivox recording, because I was wanting to ease him into so many readings per day/week when we first started.  We often look up videos or pictures afterwards.

He liked the Gregor Mendel biography and I did ask for a written narration for this one since it was just a picture book.  Now in Term 2, we went with the option to use our own Issac Newton biography,   instead of the scheduled option.  We're using Issac Newton: The Scientist Who Changed Everything, because again, I already owned this book.  I just altered the modifiable schedule to accommodate a reading schedule for this book.  I typically receive great narrations out of this one.  Because I had originally purchased it as part of Beautiful Feet Books History of Science, I already had the BFB guide and he has the option of matching up some of the experiments if he wishes, and we were doing this until we switched our geology books.

Now that brings us to Madam How and Lady Why.  I was reading this one to him, because it's not the type of book you just hand over.  We made it through 15 weeks, then he asked to switch.  We didn't find the book difficult; I think he was trying to like it.  We were dealing with the outdated science - but the tone of the book and the ideology propagated was just too much.  I also realized that when he got through the book, Emory would then be in Year 4 and I'd have to do it again.  His request to replace this book was based on merit, so I decided to honor it.  I realize Madame How and Lady Why represents more than you will find in any other book.  However, I did some research and found Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth: A First Book about Geology by Herman and Nina Schneider.

It seemed to receive positive reviews on AO's Book Substitution forum, and Sabbath Mood Homeschool uses it for their 7th-9th grade Geology.  After receiving the book, I feel like the reading level is light for that range, but it's appropriate for upper elementary and can be read independently.  He likes this book, and I am getting good narrations.  He also loves the readings that have experiments/activities included.

Language Arts

Cursive/Copywork - He does passages from books, verses from AWANA, and sometimes quotes by people he's studying.

Written Narrations - We haven't made it up to weekly, mostly because I forget, but we are doing them more frequently.  I usually have his written narration replace typing lessons and/or studied dictation for the day.

Studied Dictation - We're using Spelling Wisdom, and I really like it.  I knew I would never remember to pull passages from our literature, so this works really well for us.  He's done some formal grammar in the past, so right now I'm just pulling relevant lessons out of the dictation occasionally.


He is using CTCMath for his math lessons.  This boy also went through an "I hate math" phase for a long time, which perplexed me, because he always started the year eager to begin his new curriculum and he never actually struggled with math.  When we switched to CTC, attitudes changed drastically.  I find it compatible with CM - the lessons are short, and it's mastery based.  Reviews are now included, but they are separate lessons.  The individual lessons/questions all focus on one topic.  He is still using Xtra Math for math drills, to make sure the facts are down.  Attitudes have improved dramatically in regards to math, and he usually chooses Math first most days - even this far into the year!


Age of Fable - This had such a slow start, but we got into the actual stories, it got better.  I reading this to him, because even though the readings are very short, he needs it in small doses.  His response has been "If people were going to make up fake gods, why didn't they just make them perfect?"  We've had some interesting conversations, and I saw how someone looks up photos after each reading, so we might start doing that!

Robinson Crusoe - Don't call the CM police, but it appears we were using an abridged version, that had parts (most of his religious introspection?) removed.  It doesn't appear, however, that what remains was really simplified, as the remaining text otherwise "matched."  We still found it a stretching read, and he seemed to like the story.  By the time Emory gets to Y4, I'll also have a Y1, so I'm thinking we'll switch to the podcast version that AO users seem to enjoy, and hopefully Elliott will listen in with us.

Kidnapped - I happened to have downloaded an audio book (free or .99 probably) so I've had him reading along on the Kindle for most chapters.  We've also tried just listening, and me reading it to him.  No matter what, he procrastinates on this book and it's probably the one book he dreads; narrations are less than stellar.  I think I'm going to bump up Term 3 literature (The Incredible Journey) into the Kidnapped spot, and where we're at in the schedule, it should work out nicely as far as scheduling.  Then in Term 3, we'll read Emory's book, Robin Hood, together.  I think both the appeal and cultural value of Robin Hood make it a more desirable choice, and Kidnapped can be moved into a free read spot in a couple of years.  (I just confirmed this decision by looking over the placement of Robin Hood/Kidnapped on AO's Pre-7 booklist.)

These are other things that should be part of the Y4 schedule that we aren't doing yet, or aren't doing "exactly" as written.

Bible - We are not using their reading schedule.
Trial and Triumph - He will do the alternate church history schedule later.
Foreign Language - We dabble in Spanish, but we aren't consistent.
Latin - We just haven't made it that far.
Picture Study/Shakespeare/Music - I've shared the enrichments that we're doing with his Y2 brother
Plutarch - Hoping to start next year when he's officially in 6th grade.
Physical Activity - He is taking a basketball "class" before co-op, and as gym.  We also do our outdoor time, nature walks, and in bad weather we take brain-breaks that includes stretches, jumping jacks, etc
Co-Op - In addition to gym, he also has art and science.  That helps with both art and hands-on science that sometimes gets missed at home.
Handicrafts - We just finished up our ArtAchieve lessons (mostly drawing oriented) and we're going to be doing clay next.  He also received an electronics kit for us to review, as I thought it would be a good handicraft related to robotics - which had been his request.  He and I will be working through this.

I have made more tweaks to Year 4 than I anticipated, but I hope the heart of AO is still there.  I feel like the kids are starting to thrive on Charlotte Mason's methods, and I'm so happy to have really transitioned.

©2011-2018 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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Magic Stix {review}

As a parent and homeschooler, I am always looking for quality art supplies to add to our art cabinet.  Recently we were given the opportunity to review Magic Stix Washable Markers from The Pencil Grip, Inc.  This company makes our beloved paint sticks, so I was pretty confident we would like these new markers.

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

All of my kids have used these markers, but my newly turned 5 year old is the most artsy of the group, so naturally I find her getting the most use out of them.  She has used them regularly for various coloring and drawing projects over the last several weeks.  Her brothers gave her one of their activity books, and it's full of pictures to color, trace and finish.  This gives her something quiet and "bookish" to do at the table while the big kids are doing school.  This book has thicker paper (somewhere between copy paper and cardstock) and it showed through on the back.  When I tested on regular paper, some colors did bleed through to the next page.  So I would suggest they are best for one-sided projects.

The markers are medium-tipped, so she can get most of the picture colored in broad strokes, but still have good control and precision in smaller spaces.

She is also learning how to read, so sometimes I print a random little activity page that corresponds to what she is learning.  It certainly livens up a lesson when she can add her favorite colors and do a little art.  As you can see, purple is her favorite color and gets a lot of use, but it is still going strong!

Another way we've used the markers is for structured art projects.  The big kids have an art program they're working through, and one project, titled "The Plate from Nepal," suggested the use of markers for the younger age ranges.  The boys did the full project, while Eleanor did the bird drawing.  The markers held up well on the paper plates and the colors didn't bleed or run when the plates accidentally got wet.

Essentially, we have found that these markers worked for all of the average coloring and drawing activities we have completed.

However, these markers come with several claims.  First, they are non-toxic and odorless.  I'm very sensitive to odors, so I don't tolerate chemical-laden cleaning supplies, scented candles, most colognes/perfumes, art supplies . . . you get the point.  I can say that I noticed no smells!  Sure, if you purposely sniff the marker there is a faint odor, but nothing obnoxious, or that you can smell with normal use.

Another claims is that they are washable.  After the purple horses shown above, we had several hand washings and a bath, and she still had purple marks on her hands.  The few stray marks on the table have washed off easily though!  I haven't seen any stray marks on clothing or other surfaces to test this any further, but I'm inclined to think clothing might need stain removal treatment to come out successfully.

The biggest claim is that they are guaranteed not to dry out for 7 days with their cap off!  This is a big deal, if you live in a household with small children who cannot cap a marker properly.  My toddler has a tendency to let caps roll away and forget about them.  The kids did test out this claim, and although I couldn't find their graph to share, the Magic Stix marker held its color vividly the entire week, while the other brand they tested against started to dry out by Day 3.

The 24-pack of markers includes a nice range of colors.  We have found it to be enough colors for my amateur artists.  The colors are bright and vivid, and color smoothly.  I also love the plastic case for storage.  It clips shut, and there is an insert that allows you to snap the markers in place.  You can find exactly which color you're looking for with this case, without dumping an entire box everywhere, and clumsy little fingers aren't cramming the markers back into a thin opening.  I can't say the case will last forever, but it is certainly more durable than the average cardboard box!

These are are quality markers, and I will likely keep our art cabinet stocked with them going forward.  The Pencil Grip, Inc. also makes our beloved Kwik Stix and Kwik Stix Thin Stix, which are tempera paint sticks that have become one of our all-time favorite art supplies.  If I were making an "art basket" for a child, I wouldn't hesitate to include products from this company, and I'm eager to see if they develop any more art supplies in the future!  For now, you can check out more reviews of the Magic Stix Washable Markers to see what other families think!

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Magic Stix Washable Markers {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

©2011-2018 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.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Peek into our Homeschool - February 2018

I know February is short a few days, but it seems like I just wrote my January wrap-up!  We had some sickness this month, but we still made a lot of progress.

For Valentine's Day!  My husband knows the way to my heart!  The full six-volume set of The Home Education Series by Charlotte Mason!

Speaking of Hearts - the kids had a fun little Valentine's Day Party at co-op.  We ordered pizza, brought snacks to share, exchanged Valentine's Day cards and hung out with friends.

For our snack, we made heart-shaped, dipped rice krispee treats.

Also chocolate covered pretzels with fun sprinkles.  Eloise loved these things.

As far as the homeschooling thing.  We are now halfway through our AO schedule, so that was a fun milestone for me!  I'm enjoying the curriculum so much that I have already started purchasing books for next year.

The last couple of weeks, I've really made it a point to focus on nature study and nature journals.  Last week we studied Evergreen Trees with Exploring Nature with Children.  I think it's time to get Eleanor (5) her own nature journal!  This is what she did after seeing the boys do their journals.

I also changed out Elliott's science book Madame How and Lady Why and replaced it with Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth: A First Book about Geology.  He and I both had reasons for wanting to to change out the book, but I won't go into detail - I'll probably write up a mid-year update for his Y4 in the next week or so.

There haven't really been any other big changes, but The Schoolhouse Review Crew is really getting underway right now for me, so we're adding in things here and there.  Most of our current review items are supplemental/enrichment activities.  Here's a peek if you're interested!

One other thing that is a "core" subject that we're reviewing is Language Lessons for Children Primer One from Cottage Press.  This is a lovely little language arts program for 2nd-3rd graders with a strong Charlotte Mason influence.  We're both really liking it so far.  (This is actually a review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine website, but I'll try to get it over here on the blog when possible.  It's a nice program.)

Of course, I did just publish my Starfall review.  Eleanor has loved this app and has been learning with it for the last several weeks.

Other Stuff
Otherwise known as, more things I might want to remember.

Picture Study Artist - We finished Leonardo da Vinci and started Peter Paul Rubens!

Shakespeare - Emory is just loving Shakespeare!  We finished The Tempest and will likely read Romeo and Juliet next.

Hymn - I'll Fly Away

Patriotic Song - The Star Spangled Banner
I decided to also add a patriotic song every now and then too, and just chose this one simply because of discussing it around the Olympics this month.

Folk Song - Camptown Races
This was actually supposed to be March's song, but the boys begged to go ahead and do this one, so I agreed to switch.

Composer - We finished up Beethoven, and at the same time, we received Music Appreciation from Memoria Press to review.  So we're just using this for now in place of Composer, and it's a fun change of pace!

Art - We've been finishing up ArtAchieve, because I realized we have a few lessons left and our subscription expires soon.  This is Elliott's Owl from Bali.

A great month, and March is off to a great start already too!

Homeschool Coffee Break

©2011-2018 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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Starfall Home Membership {review}

My daughter just turned five years old and is a delightful little student.  She is very precocious, and as a third child, she is always wanting to run with the big kids, including doing school with them.  When she was about two yeas old, and was infatuated with my iPad, I let her play on the free Starfall app from Starfall Education Foundation.  It was her special little school time, and in no time, she knew all of her letters and their primary sounds.  More recently though, we were given the opportunity to review The Starfall Home Membership so she was excited to have something familiar, but more varied and in-depth and appropriate for her skill level.  My three year old likes to join in on the fun sometimes as well!

Starfall began in 2002 as a place for children to have fun learning how to read.  It included a handful of books, videos and games.  Many people know about the free resources on, but The Starfall Home Membership allows your whole family to utilize one account to sign in and access all additional content.  Your account can be used by everyone with just one login, and it also works across mobile devices - Android, Kindle and iOS.  We have used our account on my MacBook Air, iPad Pro and a Kindle Fire.  All have worked with no issues!

Once I sign in with my account and authorize the device, I don't have to continuously sign in, which is a nice feature.  I can just open the website or app and let them play.  This is not a sequential or leveled program, so none of the activities are locked.  Children can play and learn anywhere, go back and forth between activities, and repeat anything as they wish.  I like that they have the freedom to enjoy the activities that are most developmentally appropriate and interesting to them.

Some of the activities that we have done include building CVC words, learning about the calendar, practicing measurements, listening to music and poetry, and so more!  I couldn't begin to tell you about all of the individual activities and skills covered, but there is quite the variety of interactive reading and math games.

The Short Vowel Word Machine lets the children switch out letters, to make new words.  Since Eleanor is right at the word family/CVC stage of learning to read, this is a good activity for her to see that connection, and how changing just one letter changes the sound and meaning of a word. review

In other areas there are books that are read to to the child, and many of these are popular folk tales.  While it doesn't replace a physical book and snuggle time, it's a great activity for the child who just can't get enough of books and read-alongs.  I can tell the Goldilocks story a hundred times, but my three year old would still ask for it again.  Obviously, I like that this is one of the featured stories!  We can listen to Goldilocks while I'm working nearby.

In addition, there are many enrichment activities.  Eleanor was delighted to find the poem My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson in the poetry section.  The big kids had used this poem for memory work and recitation, so she was thrilled to have their poem in her program.  The poems are just one of the many activities under the 1st Grade Reading: Literature and Informational Text section.

Two other great sections there are the Art Gallery and Music sections.  There are short, informational readers that expose the children to classic works.  Since we do Picture Study and Composer Study in our homeschool, these are great little supplements when they happen to line up. review

Another favorite area is The Starfall Sing-Along.  It's like a children's music app, where they can listen to nursery rhymes and songs.  These are songs like Baa Baa Black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle, and The Wheels on the Bus.  Eleanor (5) and Eloise (3) love to sing contemporary music with their older siblings, so I sometimes forget that they need the simplicity and the literary value of  nursery rhymes and children's songs.  They both really enjoy this area! review

In addition to all of the reading and literacy activities, Starfall also offers numerous math activities.  You can find easier activities like sorting buttons and coins, to place value games to division and fractions.  You can find skill-appropriate activities by clicking on the 1st/2nd grade buttons if your child is older.  These are great supplemental activities for any math curriculum, and a fun introduction for students just learning to explore numbers and measurements.

Starfall Parent-Teacher Center & Starfall Store
For the adults who are facilitating the learning, there is a comprehensive Parent-Teacher center.  It has the complete guide to using Starfall for each grade level.  For my Pre-K student, I can open one guide, while the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade guides are split into ELA and Mathematics.  The guides cover which activities support which learning skills, as well as supplemental items from the store that correspond to the skill.  There is also a very thorough Resource center where you can print or create a variety of worksheets to use in your home.  The Starfall Store showcases the apps, books, CDs and other materials that complement their online program and their curriculum kits.  These resources would obviously allow you to use the program in a more systematic and purposeful way.

Final Thoughts
As a parent, I fully believe in the value of unstructured play, outdoor time and learning through real-life at this age.  However, I also recognize that we live in a society where technology is undoubtedly part of our lives, and that teaching our children how to responsibly use technology in moderation is important.  If I am going to allow electronics, I want to make sure the time is used wisely, so an engaging, educational resource is always a hit in our home.  As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I love that Starfall Education Foundation includes classic stories, nursery rhymes, songs, classical music, and art as part of their approach to literacy.  Their math activities are also play-based and fun for my preschooler.  I find it a very well-rounded online resource.  The Starfall Home Membership is $35/year for your entire family.  Overall, both of my preschoolers really enjoy the activities and I am happy to utilize it as part of their school a few times a week.

The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews}
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