Thursday, May 28, 2015

EEME: Building a DIY Display

Last month we were delighted with our first project from EEME where Elliott built a Project Genius Light.  The kid was excited when the next box came in.  Once again, this little brown box contains everything you need for an exploration into the world of electronics and engineering.  The second project from EEME is a DIY Display, and I'm happy to share another review with you.

EEME review

According to EEME, this is what we had in store for us:  "In the second project, your kid will wire up an LED display to a switch system, learning about segmented LEDs and switches along the way."

My kid is all about antiques right now, so he was thrilled when he found out he would be building something from "the past" since it was described as before the times of the iPad and touch screens, which is basically all his generation has known.

I really appreciated that one of the first videos was a very basic review of the breadboard and how it works.  Elliott remembered most of the information we reviewed, but I love that it was built right into the course.  I also still love the periodic reviews where the student answers multiple choice questions or summarizes what they learn.  Sometimes I just have Elliott answer to me rather than try to type his answers out for the summaries, but I can also type as he dictates.

Last time we sat at the kitchen table with my laptop, but this time I had the forethought to cast the browser to the television, so we could watch the video course more comfortably!

The videos are also still simple and clean.  I think it's important that there's no background noises or visual distractions within the video.

EEME review

The short videos allow a lot of information to be covered in bite-sized pieces.  One video may have Elliott building something, the next video will be an explanation of what they just did, and the next video might have him take it apart and do something different to demonstrate why things work (or don't work) a certain way.  I love how the course allows for this exploration of the topic being discussed.  It's not just a step-by-step guide to building something fun.  It really is teaching him along the way.

EEME review

Each video is clearly labeled and there were diagrams along the way for where to place the pieces, should you need a better visual.

EEME review

Some of the things covered in this project were how a segmented LED is controlled, shared resisters, what would happen if we used a stronger resister, and how to use the switch panel.  At the end, Elliott was encouraged to basically play around with it to create different configurations with the LED lights.  Of course he had to make an E for Elliott, and he played around to make different letters and numbers.

EEME review

I will say that last month we worked through the project in two sittings and that worked well, but this time we worked through it all at once.  It took us about two hours (with some interruptions) to get through the 38 sub-lessons, and that was too long for him.  Older kids could probably get through it faster or not get as fidgety over the course of two hours, but that's a long time for my 8 year old.  I definitely think for the younger end of the age range, that breaking it up into two sessions is perfect.

I still can't say enough great things about this EEME course.  You get everything you physically need in a small box each month, and all you do is login to access the very detailed videos.  We are using these as part of our homeschool, but they would work for summer projects or after school learning too.  They are the real deal, and I'm in love.  More than that, my kid loves it, and is learning so much without even realizing it!

For kids that are highly interested in electronics or engineering this is a great gift.  You should also have them check out the EEME Blog for interesting articles and videos.  There's a lot of great information there!

They have different purchase options, but I am using the $18.95/month for the basic subscription.  You can find more information on the EEME website, or follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter.

Special Note:  If you sign up 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.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Five in a Row: Harold and the Purple Crayon

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The boys asked to row Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I admit, I've never particularly loved this book, but my kids always have.  I knew there was a lot I could do for all three, even with their wide age range, so I went for it.

Language Arts
Humor, Setting, Narration
We discussed the humor and puns used in the story.  Elliott liked how Harold "drew up his covers" at the end of the story!  Then we learned that the setting is progressive, because it is constantly changing.  I asked the kids to choose a color and draw their own progressive stories on easel paper.

Emory's picture was called "Emory and the Giant Blue Crayon" which included a bug, a giant apple with a giant worm coming out of it, and a hot air balloon.  Perhaps not progressive, but definitely creative.

Eleanor drew whatever Emory drew.

Elliott actually drew a progressive story.  He started at the apple tree, ran to the airplane which flew him to the water so he could race his sailboat to the finish line!

I thought this Purple Pie worksheet was perfect for Emory for this book, and I created a copywork page for Elliott with a quote from the book at Worksheet Works.

Additional Books
Harold's Fairy Tale
Harold's Circus
Harold's Trip to the Sky.

Social Studies
We decided to place our story disk in PA since that's where the Crayola factory is located.  There was no social studies lesson for this book, so we spent some time reviewing some geography and topics from our previous rows.

For Eleanor, we just talked about colors.  This cute crayon puzzle was from the dollar tree years ago.  She named colors and we told her where they went, or we read the color names, and she found the correct match.

City Windows
I combined and tweaked an art and a math lesson from the manual for both boys.  I drew out the buildings first for simplicity, and then gave them dominoes.  Emory added his to determine how many windows for each building.

Elliott multiplied to find the number of windows for his buildings.  He was going for the diversified look for his city.  I think.  But he was also in a hurry.  ;)

Then Emory spent some time drawing his own buildings with many windows and doors.

I printed a few Fraction Circles on cardstock and let the kids put them together.  Eleanor could do the 1/2 fraction circle on her own, and the boys could of course do the others.  While we were doing this, I discussed the lesson in the manual on thirds and improper fractions with Elliott.

The next day I gave Emory another 1/3 fraction circle and we discussed thirds (how much would Elliott, Emory and Eleanor each get if we split the pie equally) and then he colored his 1/3 portion and glued it back together.

Elliott did a Slice of Pie fraction worksheet for review.  It reminded him that he had to pay attention to both the numerator and denominator as a whole.

Crayons (and hot air balloons!)
I wanted to keep this row light, and fun, and focus on the creative side of the book.  So instead of doing the lessons from the manual (which we can cover through other books), we had fun learning about crayons.  We watched Mr. Rogers shows how to make Crayons, The Life of an American Crayon, and Here's How #3 - Crayons and Markers to learn how crayons and markers are made.  They colored pictures with markers while they watched these videos.

The last one led us to seeing the thumbnail for Here's How #4 - Balloons and it was about hot air balloons, which we also watched since Harold took a hot air balloon flight.

Fine Arts
We listened to the Flying Purple People Eater song more times than I care to count.

Handicrafts--Making Crayons
We made new crayons from our broken ones.  Peeling wrappers is excellent fine motor activity, and something Eleanor enjoys doing anyway!

We separated them into color groups and melted them into hot wax in the oven, before pouring them into our play-doh cookie cutters to mold them into fun shapes.

The teddy bear was so cute and was probably my favorite.  Until I broke him.

Of course with talking about Harold and art and colors, we got out ARTistic Pursuits and did an overdue lesson.  Actually, we decided we should go back to the very beginning of the first book and start over.  Elliott loves the idea of ALL that art, and I like the idea of going systematically in order.  Watercolor crayons did give us the chance to talk a little about color mixing.

Eleanor was given some inexpensive watercolors ($0.49!) to experiment with for the first time.  For the price, she can do whatever she wants with them, and the boys nicer paints are kept clean.

Food Fun
Food & Cooking
We had purple smoothies for a snack one day.  Elliott and Eleanor made cherry picnic pies from the cookbook, and we had mini chicken pot pies for dinner one night!

We managed to keep this row light and fun, which is what we needed for the end of the year.  The kids loved it.

Littles Learning
Read Aloud Wednesday

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Why I Love Five in a Row

What is Five in a Row?
The concept of Five in a Row is so simple, yet brilliant.  Five in a Row is a a unit study curriculum written by Jane Claire Lambert that utilizes quality children's picture books.  You read the book aloud five days in a row, and each day you use the story to explore concepts in language arts, science, social studies, art and applied mathematics.  If you're using Five in a Row for preschool, you need nothing else.  If you're using it for early elementary school, you just need to add in mathematics, reading/phonics, and handwriting.  Older students may need grammar.  Oh, and you might want the Five in a Row cookbook if you like to work food into your studies!  Other than that, Five in a Row is everything you need for a delightful learning experience.

Why did I choose Five in a Row?
When I knew I was going to homeschool, I started researching.  I researched educational philosophies and styles and curriculum for a long time.  I kept coming back to a literature-based approach.  Using real books to teach?  Yes please!  I looked at Five in a Row, and I went back and forth, but decided not to buy it at the time.  Not until child two wanted to start Kindergarten did I get serious about finding a new curriculum that could work for both boys.

I chose Five in a Row for several reasons, and they are all reasons that I love it.

It promotes family learning.
Because of the nature of the program, I felt like Five in a Row would allow the boys to work together, even if at their own level.  I like that we can learn together most of the day, rather than be separated by age or an arbitrary grade level.  I've been rowing with a young Kindergartner and a Second grader, and lately even the 2 year old has been joining us too.  Five in a Row has something to offer for all of them, despite their age and skill difference.  Aside from that, it's about reading good books together.  The time cuddling and enjoying good literature is priceless.

It promotes rich literature.
The first thing I noticed was that all of the book choices, or at least the ones I recognized, were quality books.  I was actually using the book list as a general guide even before we started officially rowing.  As we started reading more of the books, I was continually impressed.  Some of the books are simpler, but all of them are living books.  They are beautiful picture books that my children have enjoyed.  Since I've always been drawn to a literature-based approach to educating the kids, the use of quality books was very important to me, and that is why Five in a Row was on my short list.

The lessons are rich and varied.
We've explored geography, world cultures, measurements, story setting, cooking, life cycles, silhouettes, holidays, the animal kingdom, families, weather, homophones, community, personification, cardinal directions, patterns, writing letters, birds, immigrants, origami, positive character traits, and so much more.  That's the tip of the iceberg, because we still have so many books to row!  The beauty of Five in a Row is that I can go as deep into a topic as we want.  Sometimes we use the lessons for exposure, sometimes for review, and sometimes we really dig in and explore it thoroughly, or follow rabbit trails into new topics.  No, it does not follow a typical course of study or scope and sequence, but Five in a Row offers a buffet of lessons, and we get to choose a platter to satiate our curiosity.  By the end, we will have a diverse and well-rounded foundation on which to build a deeper understanding of the world around us.

The flexibility works well with our homeschool style.
We are very delight-directed.  I'm not a Type A personality.  I don't need detailed lesson plans and check boxes.  I just need a general guide.  Five in a Row is laid out perfectly for someone like me.  We get to choose the order of the books we row.  I choose books based on their interests, or the season, and we go from there.  Then within each unit, I choose the lessons that meet our current needs.  Also, because each unit is short, we can pause the curriculum to follow a rabbit trail or study something else, and pick back up without feeling "behind," because it's not scheduled out to follow a traditional school year start-finish calendar.  Plus the nature of the unit studies also allows us to take a break when we're doing a review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew that needs more attention.  There's really no wrong way to use this curriculum.

The kids love it, and they are learning from it.
"What book are we doing next for Five in a Row?"  I find them perusing the books on the Five in a Row shelf talking about previous rows, and asking questions about new books.  "Can we learn about {insert topic of interest} next in Five in a Row?"  They want to use Five in a Row to follow their interests.  They make connections to books we've rowed to something new they've discovered.

Enthusiasm.  Interest.  A love of learning.  That's why I love Five in a Row.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

B4FIAR: The ABC Bunny

We needed an easy row after being away from home unexpectedly for a week, so when Emory wanted to learn about rabbits I decided to pull a Before title to keep it simple.

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Our first Before row was The ABC Bunny by Wanda Ga'g.  This was a sweet rhyming alphabet book that has a "story line" rather than being a traditional letter-word association type alphabet book.

Normally our rows focus on the boys, and I found a few ways to include Elliott, but being older he does more academics anyway, and I definitely chose this book with Emory (5) and Eleanor (2) in mind.  Eleanor and Emory are both in different stages of learning the alphabet--and go around singing that song all the time--so this was a fitting book to go along with the rabbit request.

Language Arts
The focus of this row was definitely the alphabet.  For Emory, we worked on reviewing letters, practicing letter sounds and alphabetical order.  I thought it would mostly be exposure for Eleanor, but she surprised me when she knew several of the letters already.  That's what happens when you have big siblings and want to do your own school, I guess.  She loves Starfall, and can navigate the app by herself, so she likes to play on that sometimes during school.  They've also watched LeapFrog Letter Factory a few times recently.

Favorite Alphabet Books
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault
Dr. Seuss's ABC by Dr. Seuss
A B C Look At Me by Roberta Intrater
Alphabears: An ABC Book by Kathleen Hague
Curious George's ABCs by H.A. Ray
S is for Smiling Sunrise by Vick Wadhwa (my review)

Alphabet Cover Up
I gave Emory an ABC grid that I found somewhere online, and as he drew each letter tile he placed them over the correct match.  (We have a full set of phonics, suffixes, prefixes, etc., but they are similar to these Letter Tiles.)

I set out different alphabet puzzles for the younger two.  I helped Eleanor and named letters for her.  While Emory worked on them, we reinforced letter sounds.

Elliott did the alphabet in cursive, while Emory worked on The ABC Bunny Alphabet from Homeschool Creations.

Emory also liked these little dry erase cards.  I found them for just a few cents at Ollies!

The ABC Bunny Maze was a hit because he loves mazes, and it was another excuse to sing the alphabet song.  

Alphabet Song Game
The Alphabet Song Game from The Critical Thinking Co is a cute "game" that sings the alphabet song and then helps the child learn letter names and shapes and alphabetical order.  It's been FREE on the website for awhile, and that's how I got it, but the Crew has reviewed it as well.  It's good for Preschool and Kindergarten.

Critical Thinking Company Review

Magnetic Letters
We got out magnetic letters for Eleanor . . .

When she wanted to join us in the floor for another game, we transferred to a cookie sheet so she could sit with us, and Emory decided they needed to be in order.  This is where I learned Eleanor knew more letters than I initially realized.  I knew she thought A was a triangle, but she correctly identified several letters for us.

They also built towers with alphabet blocks.  

Spelling Games
Elliott (8) is obviously beyond the alphabet, so instead I channeled his love of board games.  We played Razzle.  For a math-y kid, board games are a great way to encourage language skills.  We didn't play exactly by the rules, because I have an unfair advantage over him in speed, but he really liked the game.

He also played the Ruzzle app on the iPad.  It's a similar concept, except he could play alone.

I wanted to keep the science portion short and sweet, since this row was focusing mainly on the two little ones, but science was an area where Elliott could also participate.  We read about rabbits in our animal encyclopedia.  They all enjoyed looking at the pictures and the boys determined we'd most likely see the Eastern Cottontail rabbit in our region.  We get to look at rabbits whenever we want, since the grandparents have a couple on the farm too, so those are often a stop on our walks.

Fine Arts
We listened to The ABC Bunny song several times.  Eleanor loves music, and she asks for her "bunny song" frequently now, especially if she sees the book.  We also sang the traditional alphabet song more times than I can count.

This was a great row for a short week.  Next Up - Harold and the Purple Crayon!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Homemade Bagels

Kids in the Kitchen:  Making homemade bagels with daddy!

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

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