Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Fascinating World of Birds (Schoolhouse Review)

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Whenever we study something in our homeschool, I am always looks for fun and engaging resources to compliment our studies.  When BrainFood Learning offered the Schoolhouse Review Crew a choice of three different videos, I was excited to review The Fascinating World of Birds ($14.99).  We are currently doing a year-long study on ornithology, and having a fun, educational DVD to go along with it is a huge bonus!  BrainFood Learning was started by parents of young children who wanted both fun and stimulating content.  This video delivers!

As soon as the DVD arrived, the boys wanted to watch it.  The Fascinating World of Birds starts out with a brief overview of common characteristics of all birds.  We learned about down feathers and contour feathers, toothless beaks, and other features common to all birds.  The video then focuses on 10 different birds, including common backyard birds and popular exotic birds.  All of the birds are generally well-known birds that children are going to find interesting.

  1. Ostriches
  2. Penguins
  3. Canada Geese
  4. Eagle
  5. Owls
  6. Hummingbirds
  7. Woodpeckers
  8. Macaws
  9. Pelicans
  10. American Robins
I liked that they chose a wide variety of birds, but still focused on species that children are likely to see in their own backyard/neighborhood, or at a zoo, wildlife center or aviary.  In fact, it would make a great DVD to watch before or after such a field trip!

The video is full of live footage, which makes it fun and exciting for visual learners.  It is interspersed with scientific terms and facts about birds, which makes it interesting for children who like learning new vocabulary.  The narration is easy to listen to, and perfectly paced for children.  It was fun to see whether I would hear "Hey, I knew that!" if my first grader remembered something from a previous study, or an excited "Hey momma, did you know . . . ?" if he learned something new.

BrainFood Learning claims this video is appropriate for all ages, and I agree.  My children are 3 and 6, and both enjoyed it on their own level.  I found it developmentally appropriate for both of them, and could easily see it being informative and interesting enough for older children too.

The individual segments are very short too.  This makes it great for younger children with short attention spans, as you can watch it over a few days.  It's also great if you just want to watch each segment as it fits into your studies.

Free Lesson Plans
BrainFood Learning has recently added Free Lesson Plans to go with this series.  I like that there are activities that even preschoolers can do!

Final Thoughts
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the DVD and I'd love to see the others in the series!  The Schoolhouse Review Crew also reviewed The Fascinating World of Insects and The Fascinating World of Mammals, so be sure to read all of our reviews!

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©2011-2013 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, July 30, 2013

Mimosa Tree Study

As I was finalizing our 1st grade curriculum plans for this school this year, I was going over our topics for nature study.  I looked at Ambleside Online's Nature Study schedule, and since the summer/autumn topics are trees, shrubs and vines, I realized this was the perfect fit for us because trees are an easy study for young children.

I decided to pick one or two trees that have very noticeable differences throughout the year, so we can do a focused, year-long study.  Thinking about the trees close to our house, I realized the mimosa trees and apple trees were both good options because of their distinct seasonal changes.

Since I want to have some record of our study for portfolio purposes, I went to Handbook of Nature Study and checked out her printables, and she has a free pages for seasonal tree studies.  I printed one for each season.  We started with the mimosa tree study, at Elliott's request, and walked next door to check them out.

Mimosa trees originated from Asia and were generally used as ornamental trees.  They are, however, considered quite a nuisance to others.  The boys boys love the seedpods though, as well as the vibrant pompom like flowers.

We spent several days during our outdoor/nature study time climbing the mimosas and making observations.  I asked Elliott to draw a picture of the tree, and of the flower.  He got in a bit of a hurry so he could go play, but at least he got the colors down.

"The flowers that were blooming were white, pink and green. It had lots of branches. It had lots of leaves. There was a bird in the tree and a ladybug on the roots. There were butterflies finding nectar." as dictated by Elliott

I love that he noticed all of the other living things that were on his tree!  The flowers are particularly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, so one tree gives us so much to observe.

Another activity we did was focus on the leaves.  We had to do a leaf rubbing, of course.

Then he saw this leaf art pin, and wanted to create his own leaf painting.

Emory had other ideas for his paintings.

We made sure to collect items to press for his nature journal!

This is a different tree, but we found this nest on our walk home, and the boys were thrilled.  I believe it belongs to the mockingbird that has been taunting the neighbor's cat and dog as they pass through, as it generally returns to that tree.

In the fall, we will go back and draw another version of the mimosa tree, and learn some of the more technical terms, but up next is the apple tree!

This tree study is linked up to Blogging through the AlphabetTeach Me Tuesday and Hearts for Home.

©2011-2013 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.

Don't Let the Heat Win

It's been quite awhile since I've participated in a Blog Cruise, but the current topic is Beating the Summer Heat.  As you know, I strongly believe that kids need to be outside playing and exploring as much as possible, not matter what the weather.  However, the summer heat can quickly make the kids hot, cranky and miserable, and that just leads to a cranky momma.  So to still enjoy the outdoors, I have to find ways to keep cool!

There are some obvious ways to beat the heat when we're playing outside.

Protect from the Sun
Remember to wear hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and other protective gear to block out the sun.  Red and Crispy is no fun at all!

Plan Outdoor Time Wisely
We generally go outside early.  We play or do nature study in the shade, and then we come in for quiet/nap time when the baby is ready for her nap.  We enjoy the AC inside during the hottest part of the day, and we often go back outside after dinner.

Field Trip
Take a trip somewhere fun to cool off.  Indoor places like movie theaters, bowling alleys, and museums are a fun way to beat the heat during the hottest part of the day.  Or take a trip to the pool (if you don't have one), lake or the water park!

Stay Hydrated
I like to freeze water bottles to take outside, because it will melt quickly enough that there's water by the time we're thirsty, but it stays cool a little longer because it's one large chunk of ice.  Good snacks are cold & juicy fruits like melons, grapes or frozen berries.

Water Wars
Our summers are short, so we have to take advantage of any chance to have water wars!  Water balloons, water guns, whatever you want to use...fill it up and have fun!

Pinterest Summer Ideas
Pinterest always has a plethora of ideas, and I'm looking at some for an August birthday party.  Water Balloon Basketball, Ice Cube Paint, and Ice Eggs are just a few ideas on my Summer Fun Pinterest board that would be awesome ways to beat the heat!

What are your favorite summer activities?  How do you keep cool during heat waves?

This is a blog cruise, so be sure to check out how other crew members are beating the heat this summer!

©2011-2013 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, July 27, 2013

The Homegrown Preschooler (Schoolhouse Review)

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My two oldest children are very close, and they do almost everything together.  That means my 3 year old, ("almost 4" if you ask him) wants to do school with his brother.  However, I believe in natural, informal, play-based learning for preschoolers.  I do not use formal lessons or curriculum for the preschool/Pre-K years.  Not that a formal curriculum isn't the perfect choice for another family, but it's not the right fit for my family.  Of course I was thrilled to review a book from Gryphon House Publishing all about teaching preschoolers in their natural environment.

Gryphon House publishes books to help teachers, caregivers and parents enrich the lives of young children, and The Homegrown Preschooler - Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy H. Lee & Lesli M. Richards ($29.95) was written by veteran homeschoolers and experienced early childhood educators.

Whether you plan to send your child to public or private school or continue homeschooling after the preschool years, The Homegrown Preschooler was written to help you teach your child at home in as natural and fun a way as possible.  The authors aims to show how you can provide stimulation for all areas of academic, physical and social-emotional development through everyday experiences and simple activities.

Creating Teachable Moments

The authors share tips and resources for how to naturally "teach" subjects like mathematics, science, and language by finding teachable moments throughout the day.  There are also ideas for planning simple activities to engage your preschooler during lessons for older siblings or for special one-on-one time.

For example, everyday mathematical activities might include measuring ingredients for a recipe, sorting laundry, weighing produce at the grocery store or telling time on the clock when we make transitions throughout the day.  Simple planned activities might include pattern blocks or creating an activity bag with a mathematical concept as the focus.

I provided the blocks, but he created the symmetrical design on his own.

We can name letters and sounds, trace the letters with our fingers, or go on letter scavenger hunts

Not all Learning is Contrived 

Something I identified strongly with is how the authors stressed that at this age, almost any activity a child naturally engages in is helping them develop different skills.  Not all learning needs to be planned out.

So when Emory was "making potions" outside in the bird bath, he was developing fine motor skills by picking flower buds and leaves, and gross motor skills by bending down and stirring.  He was engaging his senses as he touched various textures, smelled flowers and listened to the birds.  He was developing his language skills has we had a natural discussion about his creative play.

What's Included?
  • Suggestions for all seasons of life and all sizes of families
  • Activity ideas for science, math, literacy, art and other areas of development
  • A variety of interesting recipes throughout the book
  • Recipes for making your own art and sensory supplies
  • Instructions for making a light table and an easel {Going on my honey-do list}
  • Field trip ideas
  • Favorite children's books with ideas for fun activities to enhance the book
  • Checklists for weekly activities and a list of supplies that might be useful
  • A list of favorite stores, books (for parents) and online resources
Baking soda and vinegar with food coloring explores acid/base reactions and color mixing

Final Thoughts
This book really affirmed the choices I've been making for my young children.  There are no complicated lesson plans or expensive supplies.  It's just about being intentional.  I love the simple suggestions such as developing literacy skills with good books and meaningful conversations, playing music in the background during playtime, and encouraging outdoor play!

Climbing trees with a cousin - nature study, gross motor skills, social skills

Playing on swing set - gross motor skills

I also love that it is all informal, and it's all easy.  The Homegrown Preschooler isn't about setting specific academic goals or designing a full-blown curriculum.  It's more about recognizing the developmental areas you want to work on with your child, and being intentional about finding teachable moments.  What this book suggests is really how I've been "homeschooling" my children all along, and even though it wasn't a revelation for me, it was still relevant with practical advice and a plethora of ideas.

Apple tree study (nature study), gathering apples (motor skills) and counting apples (math) one evening

Would I Recommend This Book?
Yes, I would recommend this book to any parent (or caregiver) of preschoolers.  It's a bit pricey for the information offered, considering I've been doing preschool this way for a few years now without any similar type books, but I still enjoyed the read.  Plus, it's relevant beyond homeschoolers.  There is so much valid advice for parents in general.  Even if you send your child to a preschool or daycare, this book offers a lot of fun activities you can do together on the evenings, weekends or during the summer.  The tips for how to include your child in household chores are practical.  Going on nature walks or field trips are great family activities.  There's so much to this book, that it can really apply to any family dynamic.  I enjoyed it, and will be keeping my copy around for inspiration during Emory's Pre-K year!

Read More
Free Activities for Teachers and Parents from Gryphon House
Gryphon House Blog

You should also check out more reviews of The Homegrown Preschooler and an arts & crafts book, Global Art by Mary Ann Kholer.

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©2011-2013 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, July 26, 2013

Random Five on Friday: 6 Months

This one is all about my sweet Eleanor, who is already six months old!

1.  She doesn't sleep through the night yet, but she is finally getting into a predictable daytime routine.  She nurses almost exclusively, but she's already taken a liking to homemade baby food.  She's quite high-strung like Emory was, and my mommy brain is going into overload at the thought of having two with his personality.

2.  She lost all that sweet baby hair, but she still has her daddy's beautiful blue eyes!  Chances are high that they could still turn brown, but if not she and daddy will be the only blue-eyed family members.  The boys and I have brown eyes.  Daddy wanted her to have brown eyes too, but having such dark eyes my whole life, I'm okay with a little blue sparkle!

3.  She has a lot of stranger anxiety already.  She doesn't mind watching other people, but she puckers if they get close and try to talk directly to her, and she absolutely will not let anyone hold her.  

4.  She adores her big brothers.  Emory still aggravates her at times by being too loving, but she really does love watching them play.  She particularly likes when Elliott plays peek-a-boo type games with her.  

5.  She was the biggest of the three at 8 lbs, 5 oz.  Recently she weighed in at 12 lbs, 8 oz (8th percentile) and 24 inches (10th percentile) at about 5 1/2 months.  That puts her at the smallest of the three at this age.  Emory was 14 lbs, 6 oz at six months old, and Elliott was 15 lbs and in the 10th percentile.  We represent the little people!  That doesn't mean random strangers should tell me by baby is too small for her age.  She is not off the charts, she is well proportioned, and she's healthy.  So back off.

Just for Fun

Elliott ~ 6 months old
He was the "good" baby that slept anytime, anywhere, and started sleeping through the night early.  He also didn't lose any hair.  His eyes were about half brown by this point.

Emory ~ 6 months
He had the least amount of hair by far at birth, and lost some hair on the sides, but he had more by 6 months than she does currently.  Of course, he's blessed with some crazy cowlicks too.  His eyes had already turned brown by 6 months.

Eleanor ~ 6 months

This post is linked up to Random Five on Friday @ The Pebble Pond.

©2011-2013 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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

S is for Scheduling First Grade

I have never been a scheduled, organized, Type A personality.  I am more of a go with the flow type gal.  That naturally carried over into our homeschool during the early years.  Perhaps I love Charlotte Mason's approach to the early years because it meant I didn't have to schedule or plan anything.  We let things happen naturally.  However, things are changing now that Elliott is a little bit older and needs more structure.  So that means I had to get myself in gear and come up with a semi-reasonable schedule for first grade to try to follow for school.

We are using Ambleside Online Year 1 as our core, with only very minor adjustments.  You can see my First Grade Curriculum choices to see what resources we're using for other subjects.

One thing I am working on this year is the concept of "circle time" since Emory (Pre-K) likes to be part of school for awhile.  Some of the things will be geared more towards him, to help him get his love tank full.

Family School will consist of Bible, Calendar, Memory Work, Picture Study, Music , Read-Aloud and Poetry.

We will jump into reading and math while the baby is down for her nap, as they require focused attention from me.  The AO Readings can be shuffled around if necessary.  So here's a general schedule.  I'm sure it will change.  Perhaps multiple times.  However, this is what I've come up with for now.

Fun Friday
Family School

Math U See
Math U See
Life of Fred
Math U See
Life of Fred

AO Reading
AO Reading
Nature Study
AO Reading
AO Reading
AO Reading
AO Reading
AO Reading

AO Reading
AO Reading

AO Reading
AO Biographies

AO Reading


Fine Arts*


Artistic Pursuits

On my master schedule, I have the specific books penciled into those "AO Reading" slots, but since not all books are scheduled every week, there may be days we only have 1 reading, and there may be days we don't have any readings.  I haven't gone over it with a fine tooth comb to compare exactly when certain books overlap for all 36 weeks, but so far this looks like a fairly balanced schedule.  It's always open for change.

*Fine Arts - I scheduled Handicrafts early in the week, so that if it's missed, there's still a few afternoons to catch up on it.  I scheduled Composers for Wednesday because we can listen to it in the car in the evenings, and art for Fun Fridays because it's generally messy.

Fun Friday
Our co-op will meet every other Friday, so I've scheduled Fridays differently.  I've scheduled a very infrequent literature selection for Fridays intentionally, because I plan to place it on co-op week and use the audio version in the car.  Nature Study will be informal outdoor time when we get home.

On the opposite Fridays I will go down the line, doing a reading game or other "fun" supplement, Life of Fred, and then we will do any biographies and/or geography that is designed to be spread throughout the term.  I can also catch up on any regular readings we might have missed or that need to stretch out, if necessary.  Spanish may or may not be voluntary, depending on what resources we use.  Then comes the really fun stuff!   Art will be our last indoor activity, as it is generally messy and I don't have to do "short lessons" with this one.  Then I've saved Nature Study for the end of the day because once we go outside, that will most certainly be the end of any focused attention.  That's why I've saved Nature Study for Friday afternoons!

As I said, I'm not a schedule lover.  My plan is to start slowly.  We're going to start with our new version of Family School soon.  Then I'll add in Elliott's Reading and Math lessons for a couple weeks in August.  We have a vacation scheduled the first week of September, and when we come back, we'll start full force with everything.  I'm a little scared, but I am really excited.  I've been drooling over the Ambleside curriculum for a few years now, and I honestly can't wait to start.  Even if I do hate schedules.

This post is part of the blogging through the alphabet challenge, so be sure to check out what others are sharing this week!

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Coming in August: 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool

Come on over August 5-9 as I join the Schoolhouse Review Crew for a 5 day blog hop.  I will be sharing 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool.  I'll be discussing which of Charlotte Mason's methods are appropriate for preschoolers and how I create preschool games and preschool lesson plans based on her ideals.  I'll probably touch a little on Kindergarten too, since most children "do Kindergarten" before age 6, which was when Charlotte Mason recommended starting formal lessons.

I do not claim to be an expert, but I am excited to share how we preschool Charlotte Mason style!

©2011-2013 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.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Picaboo Yearbooks {Schoolhouse Review}

One thing I always looked forward to every year in school was the yearbook . . .pictures of friends, field trips and class plays.  Now that my kids are homeschooled, I want them to have that same anticipation, and be able to reminisce through their yearbooks too.  So you can believe I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Picaboo Yearbooks and create a yearbook of our first year!

Picaboo Yearbooks offers high-quality yearbooks to schools and homeschoolers, and I was recently given the opportunity to review their 20 page softcover yearbook, which is only $8.49!

Picaboo makes creating a yearbook a fun and personal experience!

The Process
The process of designing the yearbook is not hard at all.  There is a bit of a learning curve, as with any software program (this program is completely online, by the way, no downloading required) but there are tutorial videos if you need them.

 Basically, you create/log-in to your account, input some registration information for your book, and you can start.

One of the first things you can do is divide your yearbook up into sections.  As you upload pictures, you can move them to different sections, which makes finding them much easier than if you only had one section and hundreds of pictures to go through.

You can upload pictures from your computer, import from online photo albums or your Facebook account, or add an authorized user who can also add their own photos.  I can see the ability for multiple users to add photos being great for co-ops or other groups.  I did find that I could only upload a few pictures at a time or it would crash, but thankfully the site automatically saves very frequently, so I never lost any work.

This is when I was just getting started and experimenting with the program.  You can rearrange the order of the sections, rename them or click on the title to edit the individual pages.  The title of the section does not have to be the title of your pages, either, I just used them for reference.

Designing each page is fun, but time consuming.  That is because there are just so many possibilities for each page!  You can start with a blank canvas, or you can choose from numerous page layouts to get you started.

There are more backgrounds than you could ever look at--solids, stripes, textures, polka dots, and pirate ships.  You can even use your own pictures as a background.  I did this for one of our nature study pages!  There are a nice variety of fonts, and you can add fun stickers and embellishments too.

There is just so much you can do to make each page creative and unique, that I constantly found myself editing as I discovered something new.

The ordering process was easy.  The program requires you to proof your pages and gives you a list of things to check (Is everything spelled correctly?  Are your pictures oriented the way you want them? etc.)  Then you lock your pages and you are ready to order.  You can choose from hardback or soft cover, matte or gloss finish and the number of copies to order.

You can also create a store, where you can manage prices and ordering options.  There is no minimum order and turnaround is only three weeks, which I think is fantastic!

Shipping prices start at $8.99 for the 8.5x11 book I received, but reduce with additional purchases, and those who have larger orders can call for shipping quotes.  

Final Thoughts

As part of the review, I was given the soft cover, and while it's fine for just 20 pages, if I order again in the future, I would choose the hardback just for durability, and would definitely choose the hardback for larger books.

This program is very comprehensive because of it's specific purpose.  There are many options for personalizing the book to make it unique to each family or group's needs.  Since this is a yearbook, there are a lot of features designed for large groups that a single family might not utilize, but I can still see it being beneficial to more than just your average school.  Extended families who want to do a scrapbook could work on the project together from across the country with multiple contributors.  I can also see the Yearbook option working well for homeschool co-ops, clubs, sports leagues or other groups.  There really are a lot of possibilities for this program!

We loved our finished product!  It looks exactly like the preview and better.  The paper is nice quality, the pictures are clear, and it's so fun to look at!  The completely free eYearbook is a nice bonus!

Read More

You can find Picaboo Yearbooks on social media!

You should also check out more Picaboo Yearbook reviews to see how other homeschoolers used this great product!

©2011-2013 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.