Monday, April 27, 2015

FIAR: Make Way for Ducklings

When ducklings arrived on the farm, of course we had to row Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.

This post contains affiliate links.

We have the book with the audio CD, and we also utilized Kiddie Records Weekly for another reading of it.

Social Studies
Geography - Boston
Outside of the discussions from different lessons in the manual, we also focused a little on Boston for Geography.  We learned that Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and read a little about Massachusetts from our state card.

We marked Massachusetts on our US map, then our home state.

We also used Google Earth, because the boys LOVE it!  We looked at Boston and some of locations in the book, and I showed them a picture of the statues of the ducks.  Of course we placed our story disk on Massachusetts.  It's fun seeing our maps fill up!

Language Arts
Emory had just worked on /n/ in his reading program, so the Nest copywork was a good fit.  I just turned Elliott's into cursive, since he's working on learning cursive right now.

Rhyming, Alphabetical Order
I printed small ducks on yellow paper (there are exactly 8 on the duck bingo game from Prekinders, but they're small and slightly tedious to cut out!) and wrote a duckling's name on each cutout.  I put them in leftover Easter eggs, and the boys "hatched" the ducklings.

Elliott read them to Emory, and I worked with Emory to put them in alphabetical order.  Then we talked about the 'ack' word family and why McCloskey chose that for the ducklings.  We went through other letters of the alphabet, coming up with other names for the ducks.  Emory thought this was fun, and Elliott said Zack was the best name that they didn't use because it was real.

Literature Connections
The Fuzzy Duckling by Jane Werner Watson
The Little Duck by Judy Dunn (This was a little long for Eleanor, but the boys liked it.  They thought the picture of grandpa rocking the duck was hilarious!)
Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri (Eleanor enjoyed looking for the missing duckling on each page spread.)
A Dozen Ducklings Lost and Found by Hariret Ziefert

Waterfowl, Mallards
We learned about waterfowl from our animal encyclopedia, but focused on the mallard.

Ducklings, Baby Birds, Eggs
Another day I read from Baby Birds and How They Grow while they did the A Duck is Born cut/paste activity (from a little teaching aid I picked up that integrates fiction and non-fiction for literature and science lessons.)  They decided the mother duck on the nest must go first, because you can't have eggs without a mother duck.  By the way, the lesson in the FIAR manual suggests being prepared for questions about fertilization, and she was right!

We also read a poem called Ducks Don't Get Wet (from the teaching aid I mentioned) and did the oil/water activity on paper ducks.  Emory was fascinated!

Art/Nature Study
We did art verbally, but one of the lessons on the Caldecott stuck with Elliott, and he was noticing them on other books!  We were going to go sketch the ducklings, since McCloskey used real ducks to help him with his illustrations, but we just didn't get to it.  We did, however, go see the ducks a few different times.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

EEME - Real Electronics for Kids!

EEME review

I shared a picture recently of when my 8 year old son decided to take apart a broken DVD player just to see if he could fix it.  Not only did he fix it, but he did so without any guidance.  I've known for awhile that he is very STEM oriented, so I wanted to find a fun way to help him develop this natural curiosity in a constructive and safe way.  If not, I didn't know what small appliances he might start taking apart next.  I had heard good things about EEME, a hands-on electronics course with video lessons.  I decided to purchase a subscription for Elliott.  Right after my purchase I was contacted by Jack, the founder, about doing a review campaign.  What perfect timing!  I knew this would be a phenomenal product for homeschoolers--especially kids who enjoy engineering and technology--so I am happy to share more about it on the blog!

We've tried the little build-a-robot type kits before.  They are fun, but they are all the same.  They tell you how to put it together, without really explaining why things work the way they do.  EEME was started by a father who wanted his kids to have something fun and educational to really teach electronics, but also to foster curiosity and critical thinking skills.  This sounded like what I wanted for my son.  It is designed to teach the whys and hows of electronics to children ages 7-12.  My kid is very fact oriented, and I knew he would appreciate having real technology presented to him appropriately.

How Does it Work?
Around the first of the month, EEME mails you a kit with all of the necessary materials to build a project.  Project 1, which you'll see here, is a Genius Light.  He would be building a light that turned on when it was dark, and off when it was bright!  I received a shipping notification, but it also included ideas for getting my kid excited about the project and a list of things that other kids say they learned.  This gave me a great idea about what to expect!

When we received our box Elliott was so excited.  It was a small, unassuming brown box, but it included everything we needed for the project.

EEME review

All we had to do was log into the website to access all of the lessons.  It started with an introduction, and then were able to start viewing the videos that would teach us how to build our light and how it worked.  It is actually a series of several videos, but each one is only a few minutes in length.  I loved the bite sized pieces, because it's perfect for young learners and short attention spans, or for taking a short break.  The videos are minimalist - nothing but the parts to the project and the instructor's hands.  No faces, no busy patterns, no background noise, nothing to distract you.

Elliott initially asked for paper instructions, and he wasn't sure about the videos (I do know he is not an auditory learner), but he liked following along once it got started.  Everything is laid out step by step, pieces are named and described, and actions are explained.  The videos give a thorough explanation about the circuit system, the LED light bulb, resisters and breadboards and other things I couldn't have taught myself as part of our homeschool.  To answer that repetitive question of how homeschoolers teach the difficult subjects--outsourcing is a beautiful thing!

EEME review

The videos were sprinkled with multiple choice questions, and opportunities to summarize what you learned from the more informational videos.  Elliott didn't like stopping for the summaries (it meant he had to stop and put his thoughts into words and type them on screen, instead of moving forward with the project) but I really liked this feature.  I think the questions and summaries are a great way to make sure the student is paying attention, and to check their understanding.

EEME review

The instructions said it would take 1.5 - 2.5 hours to complete.  Even with Elliott being on the younger end of the recommended age range for this program, he completed his project in the hour and a half, split in two sessions.  The first night we spent around 45 minutes (though we had a few interruptions from the baby) working on the project.  By we, I really mean that I watched and took notes while he did all of the work.  He was so excited when the light turned on!  It was late when we started, so once his light was working, he was ready for a break.

EEME review

When we resumed, I did a quick review with him to make sure everything was still fresh.  He didn't have many videos left at this point, but he was showed a few more things as far as rearranging wires and resisters and how that would affect the flow of electricity.

EEME review

Finally he added the photo-resister, and turned it into a Genius Light!  He couldn't wait to show it to his little brother, or for Dad to get home and see his project!

EEME review

If you are looking for a unique way to teach electronics to your kids, without having all the background knowledge yourself, I think this is the way to go.  There are a wealth of free videos and information on the website, but the actual projects are a fabulous introduction into electronics and technology.  All of the projects build off of previous months, so I know his knowledge will be growing continuously.  I can't wait for the next project, to watch his excitement, and to know that he is getting a great foundation in the STEM world!

Special Note:  Special Note:  If you sign up for a subscription through my referral link, you will receive $10 off your first month, OR you can buy the Builder Basic 6 Project Set (through this specific link) for a bundle of the first six sets shipped together.  No wait time between projects!  That would make a great summer activity that promotes learning but doesn't seem "schoolish" at all!

Please remember I only share products we genuinely enjoy and recommend.

You can find more EEME on their website or blog, as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Update:  Project 2:  DIY Display

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Parental Selfie

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

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Friday, April 17, 2015

ARTistic Pursuits {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

I have very little knowledge of art, and even less talent.  I want to teach it and enjoy it, but I'm always worried about how I am expressing myself to the kids and how well they're understanding what I am trying to convey.  Thankfully we were given the chance to do a review for ARTistic Pursuits, and I was thrilled!  We received Early Elementary K-3, Book 3: Modern Painting and Sculpture to use in our home.

The boys are in Kindergarten and 2nd Grade, so we fit right into the intended age range for this curriculum.  However one of my boys is a very "follow the rules" type child and wants his art to look like whatever we're studying, while the other is a free spirit and has no problem letting his creativity flow.  I have a hard time balancing my involvement and instruction for their two very different artistic personalities, so I was eager to see how this program would guide us together.

What Is ARTistic Pursuits?
ARTistic Pursuits is a full art curriculum (preschool to high school) for homeschoolers that helps teach children art history, art appreciation, and art technique, while allowing them to work with a variety of art materials and develop their observation skills and creativity.  Brenda Ellis has written the curriculum to be age and developmentally appropriate, to help them become visually aware of their world, and to become creative thinkers and workers.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

Modern Painting and Sculpture focuses on more recent works of art and helps children see how art has changed and is different from earlier works.  It is a continuation of the previous Early Elementary K-3 book, but it can also be used independently.  The curriculum is designed to help you study works of art by masters like Degas, Monet and Casset for example, while also covering important movements in art history.  Then it is also allows the student to create 36 unique pieces of art (24 two-dimensional works and 12 three-dimensional sculptures), using a variety of materials and techniques throughout the course.  Teaching art history along side teaching them to create unique and original art is not something I would be comfortable doing on my own, so I was grateful for the opportunity to explore this curriculum!

What Do You Need?
In addition to the book, you will need to purchase specific art supplies for the projects, if you do not already have a well-stocked art cabinet.  You can order a full kit directly through ARTistic Pursuits, or through a recommended discount art supplier online--just click straight through their website and it pulls up everything for you--or you can piece everything together yourself.  There are also household items required (twist ties, balloon, aluminum foil, etc) but everything is relatively easy to acquire.

I didn't need everything required because we already owned some items, but I needed duplicates of other things since I'm working with two students, so I ordered through the art supplier they recommend by editing the list they provide.  It's always fun to receive a box of goodies in the mail, especially fun art supplies!

Using ARTistic Pursuits
Other than assembling the supplies needed for each lesson, this curriculum is open-and-go!  A homeschool mom's dream, right?  Most lessons follow a similar format.  The parent reads a little history (artist, style, etc).  Then there is a picture study of a work of art that reflects the topic, and a few questions that the parent can ask their child to help them hone in on interesting or important details.  It's also noted that parents should feel free to comment, interject and discuss as they see fit. Then the child is given a project!

In Lesson 1 we started learning about Impressionist art, did the guided picture study, and then for the project the boys were instructed to paint pictures of a family member.  I asked them to paint each other.  I even drew with the boys, and let me tell you, we laughed so hard we were crying. They loved it, and we got off to a great start with this curriculum!

This is Elliott telling me about his picture of Emory before he started painting.

Emory (5 yrs old) got Elliott's glasses and even the character on his shirt!

Throughout the lessons, we're taught to really observe and use items around us for inspiration.

The following trees are from Lesson 5.  We had learned how Monet studied light and how it affected colors.  The second portion of the lesson involved examining some of Monet's paintings of the same building in different light.  Although I have little art history instruction, I know it is important to understand the historical context of art, and I'm glad that the picture studies include background information, leading questions and the opportunity to really study the art.  My 5 year old in particular really enjoys the picture studies.  After the initial lesson, we did our own series of paintings.  They suggested an outdoor object in different seasons/weather, and we chose trees like the example, mostly because trees tied perfectly into our art lesson on trees in our core curriculum, and also because it was an easy concept for my 5 year old to understand.

Elliott's Summer, Autumn and Winter Trees

Emory's Summer and Winter Trees

What I love about this program is the variety.  As we learn about the different ways the artists created, we are encouraged to do the same.  It starts out with several lessons of painting, but then we move into oil pastels, sculpting with chenille stems and clay, and so much more.  I've looked ahead to have an idea about what we'll be doing by the end, and it even gets into clay animation and computer art!  My 8 year old was just asking to learn animation, so he's going to be thrilled with this curriculum all the way through!  It really does give us a glimpse into the many ways art was and is used around us today.  At the end there is a note to parents on modern art after 1960, and a reading list to compliment the studies.

It is really a fascinating curriculum.  It offers me, an average parent, the opportunity to open my children up to the world of art.  It's educational, it's interesting, and more importantly, it's fun!  I want my kids to both appreciate and enjoy art, and this program really helps me do just that!

Final Recommendation
Yes!  We were previously blessed to review Elementary Book 1 and Elementary Book 2 and I still recommend ARTistic Pursuits.  It covers art history and picture study, teaches observation and attention to detail, discusses the proper way to use materials, while still encouraging creativity and individuality in personal art.

I would recommend this curriculum not just for homeschool families, but also for families who want to supplement their child's public/private school art instruction.  This is so much more than I was ever taught in school, and yet it is so easy for me to use.  I also think older elementary students with little art instruction would benefit from this book.

If you're interested in finding the right art curriculum for your family, the crew is currently reviewing all 12 books, so check them out to find something to fit your needs!

ARTistic Pursuits Review

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©2011-2015 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Goodnight Eloise

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Read-Alouds

Even though I read a lot of great books aloud to the kids during our Five in a Row time, I still like to read other books that allow us to pursue a variety of interests.  So here is what we've been inspired to read recently.

{This post may contain affiliate links.}

Chapter Books

Stuart Little by E.B. White
We chose this book in a round-about way.  When we were learning about spiders during our row of The Salamander Room, Elliott recalled something funny from Charlotte's Web (we listened to the audio book last year and have seen the newer version of the movie) and that had him asking about watching it on Netflix.  So as we're browsing for it, he came across Stuart Little, and that led to a discussion about E.B. White, watching Charlotte's Web and the Stuart Little sequels of course, and a request for me to read the book.

Elliott was a little taken aback by the ending and how Stuart didn't finish the mission he set out to do.  It wasn't tied up neatly in a little bow, and I'm not sure he liked that.

The Return of the Squirtle Squad
This was definitely the boys' choice.  They're really into the show, so I agreed to read this one in addition to Stuart Little.  The funny thing is, after two chapters, they don't ask me to read this.  It's Stuart Little that they asked for each night.  I mention this because it's important to note that one of the ideas behind reading living books regularly is that once they get the taste for "the good stuff" they won't want the twaddle anymore.


We are reading When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne right now, and then we'll read Now We Are Six as well.  Why are we reading these?  I wanted to get back into reading more poetry (and what better time to start than April and National Poetry Month!) but the boys just appreciate the Winnie the Pooh connection.  You see, there was a perusal of the bookshelves to find anything and everything Disney related.

The Human Body
Emory asked if we could learn about what's inside the human body.  Initially I tried to find a book from FIAR, but we really needed an off-week at the time he requested it, so I decided to relax and just focus on his primary interests without turning it into a big unit.  So I strewed several books to see what the kids wanted to read.  We ended up reading a few books, watching a couple of Magic School Bus Episodes, looking at a human body model, building a skeleton and doing a puzzle.  Simple, but fun.

The Skeleton Inside You
A Drop of Blood

So we learned about how we have 206 bones as adults and how Eloise has more because her bones haven't fused together yet.  We also talked about the fontanel on Eloise's head.  We talked about red and white blood cells, the heart, germs and how food is absorbed or eliminated.  {I have two boys, so you can imagine the hysterics as they discussed how the bus was supposed to get out of the digestive system in one of those MSB episodes!}

Up Next . . . 

We've decided on Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle next.  When I was pregnant with Eleanor, I decided to do her room in Raggedy Ann.  A second daughter later, and that's still a work in progress (do you know how hard it is to find bedding in the right colors that we actually like?), but I managed to pick up beautiful copies of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy books on two different trips to the flea market.  The kids were intrigued because of the dolls, and while Eleanor isn't exactly following the stories, she loves to see her "dollies" in the illustrations!  Depending on their response, Raggedy Andy Stories: Introducing the Little Rag Brother of Raggedy Ann will follow.

As We Walk Along the Road

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Memoria Press: New American Cursive {Schoolhouse Review}

What do you do when your child asks to learn cursive?  Well, you find a way to teach him!  When I saw the opportunity to review New American Cursive Penmanship Program Workbook 1 from Memoria Press, I begged to be included.  Elliott had just recently asked me to teach him cursive, so I didn't want pass up a great opportunity to engage my son in an activity that he was interested in pursuing.  I already knew I was going to teach cursive in our homeschool anyway, but this review came at the perfect time!

How Does New American Cursive Work?

New American Cursive was developed by Iris Hatfield, who has 35 years of experience in the handwriting field.  It was designed to simplify letter forms, improve the process of teaching cursive handwriting, and allow children to learn cursive at an earlier age.

The book starts with an Introduction with information about why we should teach cursive, and why we should teach it in first grade, rather than waiting until third grade, which is traditional in schools that still teach it.  The information was very interesting and enlightening, and something I will highly take into consideration with my younger children.

Next is the Teaching Guide that covers the basics of posture, pencil position and paper position.  The guide then goes on with information about how to teach the letters using a multi-sensory approach.  This is a spiral bound workbook, but it's bound at the top to accommodate both left and right handed writers.  Instruction starts with the basic dots and lines that are used to form letters.

The letters are introduced in alphabetical order, and both capital and lowercase letters are taught together.  Each letter includes three simple pages.  First is the Instruction Page which includes a large visual for how to form the letter, with Mr. Meerkat giving instructions, and only a few letters to trace.

The Letter . . . page offers ample opportunity to both trace and write the letter in capital and lowercase form.  This page also includes a word to trace, so that children can begin to feel how to connect letters even if they haven't learned certain letters yet.

The third page for each letter is called Fun Exercises & Artwork, and it includes lines, letter combinations and/or short words for children to again practice connecting letters.  These pages also include white space for children to have the freedom to draw and practice their fine motor skills on their own terms.

After every three letters, there is a review, which gives more opportunity to practice previously learned letters.  Once the full alphabet is introduced, there are a few more lessons with common words and passages.  There are also reproducible handwriting pages, and an evaluation sheet that looks useful for classroom teachers.  The inside covers of the book include the letter charts.

How Did We Use This Program?
I am using this with Elliott, who is in second grade.  The teaching guide doesn't give daily lessons, but it's easy enough to find a rhythm that will work with your student.  We've found a comfortable pace by spreading the instruction and practice of one letter out over the week.  My son generally hates the physical act of writing (he'd rather type any day) so this lets us go at a comfortable place for him.

Day 1 - We do the introduction page and half of the practice page.  I want Elliott to take his time, and really work at letter formation, rather than just trying to rush through the page just to be finished.  If he knows he only has to do half of the capital letters and half of the lower case letters, he is more likely to slow down, pay attention, and put forth his best effort.

Day 2 - We review letter formation before finishing the practice page.  Then as instructed in the manual, he finds his best letter.  This motivates him to do well too, because he doesn't want to choose from a bunch of sloppy letters.

Day 3 - We do the Fun Exercises & Artwork page.  Elliott has been drawing a large capital version of each letter and turning it into a face!  For instance, on capital F he turned the second horizontal line into a handlebar mustache.

Day 4/5 - Depending on the week, we might have a review page to do, or this gives us time to do more practice on a letter, or work on his signature or something else.  The reproducible pages in the back give you the option of letting the student practice whatever they need at any given time.  Then other weeks we take an 'off' day because we're busy outside the house.  The flexibility of this program is really nice.

What Do We Think?
Elliott likes it about as well as he can like a handwriting program.  He loves the Fun Exercises & Art pages.  While we're working on his attitude about legibility, he is eager to learn the next letter, he likes the short lessons and he really doesn't complain.

Although there are separate lesson plans, the teaching guide in the front offers enough guidance to be open-and-go, which I like.  Unfortunately in the effort to simplify the process of cursive handwriting and reduce "unnecessary" strokes, I do think the beauty of some of the letters was eliminated.  Perhaps because they look significantly different than how I was taught, or because they were simplified for younger students, but the capital F, T and Z in particular look much too plain, like print to me.  It does meet the goal of being simpler for younger children, but in reality it's lost of some of the beauty that is cursive.  However, the curriculum itself is easy to implement, and my son likes it, so for that I love it.

The Details
  • New American Cursive was designed for the average 1st grader, but can be used for older students
  • It retails for $22.95
  • There are two more workbooks for continued practice--they're now on my wishlist
  • StartWrite compatible so you can create your own worksheets in New American Cursive 
  • You can find more information on their website, or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram!
Memoria Press Review

Coincidentally, we just started using First Start Reading with Emory for Kindergarten, which the Crew is also reviewing, so be sure to check out the crew reviews for more information on both of these programs!

Memoria Press Review

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©2011-2015 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The Skeleton

When your 5 year old wants to learn about "what's inside the human body" for school . . .

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

©2011-2015 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.