Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Outdoor Play

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics {review}

Maestro Classics - The Nutcracker (review)

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

I have mentioned a few times now that I love Maestro Classics, so I'm just going to go ahead and say that I was beyond thrilled to review their new title The Nutcracker!

Last year we reviewed two Maestro Classics titles (Handel and The Sorcerer's Apprentice), and I instantly became a fan.  I have been slowly purchasing other titles and working them into our routine.  Some have accompanied unit studies, and some have been purely for enjoyment during car rides.  The kids have loved the different stories, and I've loved being able to incorporate more music appreciation into our days.  I was actually planning to study Russia in early December with our core curriculum so that we could transition into our first composer study . . . a Tchaikovsky composer study!  What perfect timing that The Nutcracker was offered for review and we could get a little taste of what our holiday studies would entail!

Maestro Classics
This company brings music to life for children.  As a parent, I want to offer my children a diverse education and an appreciation for the beauty in music.  I love Maestro Classics, as they do all the work for me!  They produce kid-friendly productions of classical music that families can enjoy together.  The Stories in Music series offers beautiful music, as well as educational explanations on the composers, history connections, musical techniques, instruments and other elements that help us understand the story and the music.  My kids love the stories, they are soaking up the educational content in an entertaining way, and even my husband and I can enjoy the whole production.

The Nutcracker
The popular story of The Nutcracker, the story of Clara, her Nutcracker Prince and the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy is brought to us in a mesmerizing way.  It is conducted by Stephen Simon, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and narrated by master storyteller Jim Weiss.  There are 21 tracks, with a total playing time of 58:01.  Simon has included music from every section of Tchaikovsky's ballet.

This production was a little different than the others we own.  In the other stories, we listen to the story set to music, then there are a couple of educational tracks, followed by the story again so that we can listen for the musical elements we learned about.  The Nutcracker begins with a little information in the Overture, but then we are just immersed in nothing but the story and the music for the remainder of the playing time.  It is a truly spectacular listening experience.

Included with each CD is an Activity Guide.  (If you order the MP3 version of a story, you'll receive a digital activity guide.)  The activity guides are fun and educational at the same time.  The Nutcracker guide includes background information about the history of the ballet, the harp and Tchaikovsky, as well as some fun word puzzles.  These are a great way to introduce the kids to more than just the story, as well as review the story.  Maestro Classics also has full curriculum guides for free on their website, and they have a multitude of lessons, activities, and crafts; there is certainly enough to create a full unit study.  Imagine my delight, as I plan on using the booklet and curriculum guide in December as part of our Tchaikovsky study.

What Did We Think?
Beautiful, as expected.  I did choose not to listen to this one repeatedly for now, as we've done with the others.  Since we are planning an in-depth study soon, this was a great "introduction" of sorts to get us excited, but we will definitely be listening to this again in the coming weeks.

This production is perfect for just about anyone.  Families who enjoy the ballet, anyone who likes Tchaikovsky's music or loves the story of The Nutcracker, homeschoolers doing a Tchaikovsky composer study, Jim Weiss fans, or just for a fun Christmas story.  This is a gorgeous retelling of Clare's journey to the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Weiss is a master storyteller, and Stephen Simon is a master conductor.  I highly recommend The Nutcracker, and every other story from Maestro Classics.

Maestro Classics - The Nutcracker (review)

Members of the crew also reviewed the classic Peter and the Wolf, so be sure to check out the rest of our reviews!


Maestro Classics Review

Crew Disclaimer

©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.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia {review}

If there's one thing homeschoolers like to do, it's plan.  Well, except maybe relaxed homeschoolers like myself, or unschoolers, but I think the The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia Educational Ministries can be used by any type of homeschooling family, even those that don't like to plan at all!

What Is It?
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Yellow Cover (also available in orange and blue) is a planning system for homeschoolers, written by Debra Bell.  It is a year-long, undated planner with yearly, monthly and weekly calendars.  The User's Guide basically tells you how to use the system along with a yearly planning retreat, monthly planning sessions and weekly planning breaks to eliminate chaos and bring more order to your life.  There is a pre-planning guide, which includes a resource list for up to six students.  There's also a place to record field trips, book lists, and there's a whole section of Teaching Tips to help you with independent learners, learning styles, or reluctant learners.  As part of a planning system, there's also a student planner and a teen planner that compliment this ultimate planner to help students become independent and take responsibility for their work.

Now, I said I think even unschoolers and non-planners like myself can get just as much use out of this as a a marathon planner.  The reason why is because of the layout.

The bulk of the "planner" is the calendars.  First the yearly grid lets you put in important dates, holidays, vacations and other events that are likely to disrupt your routine.  Then there are the 12 monthly calendars.  Each month is a two page spread, so you see everything at once and you can write in appointments, field trips or other activities that are likely to override your typical daily schedule.

Then comes the weekly planner.  This is actually comprised of four pages (two full two-page spreads) for each week.  Page One allows you to write in a variety of plans:  Bible, Battle Plan, Prayers and Hospitality/Outreach goals.  Page Two is more of a journal area to remind yourself of memorable moments, achievements and both the big and small victories for the week.  This is a fantastic resource for any homeschooler. as it allows time for reflection.

Pages Three and Four of each week are the calendar area.  It is blank, so you can organize it by days, by child, by subject...whatever works best for you.  Since we typically don't do school on co-op days and many subjects are covered through unit studies together as a family, I opted to write our main subjects across:  Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts and Extras.  Then I can go down the rows with each child, include unit studies like the "How to Use" section recommends, and still have room for me to put in items for myself to complete through the week.

The good thing about it being a blank template is that you can trial and error, or rearrange your headings until you find just the right method.  The weekly calendar still has room for notes and supplies, so I can see at a glance that I'll need certain materials and can get them out the day we're doing the experiment or project.  The appointments box allows me to write in golf lessons, co-op times, field trips and appointments, which works well for me since I don't use a Mon-Fri format.  I've found that I still prefer to write in what we do after-the-fact, but the planner works well for that.

I Love . . .
There are many features that really stick out to me in this planner.  First of all, it is undated which makes it ideal for families who do not follow traditional schedules.  Families that start at different times of the year, school on the weekends, or take weekly breaks throughout the year don't "lose" anything since they can format it as needed.  The blank template is helpful for someone who want to design the layout of their planner to meet their specific and unique homeschooling needs.  As someone who doesn't always plan ahead, I can still record what we've accomplished and use it in a way that works for me.  The pocket folders on the front and back covers are a nice touch, to temporarily store my unit study planning page or all those random papers that inevitably get shoved into my planner.  The planner is filled with verses and quotes on every page, which can be a true inspiration at just the right moment.  Also, I love the lists.  The ability to list resources, field trips and reading lists is fabulous!  I love being able to jot things down in my planner, because I use my planner as a reference when creating our annual portfolio.

I Wish . . . 
There is only one little thing that could make me love this planner more, and that would be tabs of some sort.  The planner I was previously using had monthly tabs.  Each one took you to the monthly layout, which was followed by the weekly pages.  However, I realize why that wouldn't work with an undated calendar and I think an undated calendar wins out.  I can use bookmarks, but even if there were tabs for the different sections, such as for the Monthly Planner, Weekly Planner, Records, Tips, etc, that would be helpful.

Final Thoughts
I've always heard good things about Apologia.  So far I've only used their Field Trip Journal and the Ultimate Homeschool Planner, but I can see why they are a popular company.  The products are beautiful and made of quality material, they are thorough and detailed, and they speak to your heart.  This planner is full of pearls of wisdom, inspirational quotes, and tips from someone who has "been there, done that" and wants to help us all get through it in the best way we can.  The planner is packed full of useful information and planning pages, and I highly recommend it.

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner


Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
Crew Disclaimer

©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.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

FIAR: When I Was Young in the Mountains

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

Our most recent row was When I Was Young in the Mountains.  The book is set in Appalachia, as the author grew up in the hills of West Virginia, so it gave us an opportunity to do some WV state history.

Social Studies
Appalachia-West Virginia, Occupations-Coal Mining
When we studied West Virginia we used our jumbo state fact cards and Don't Know Much About the 50 States to learn the basics like state flower, bird, tree, and when WV became a state.

We also completed a couple simple pages about West Virginia for our portfolios.

West Virginia coloring page
State Birds

Language Arts
We wrote our own "When I Was Young . . . " stories, using the template from the When I Was Young in the Mountains Printables & Acitvities.  Emory wrote one for our state, and Elliott titled his When I Was Young on the Farm.

Additional Reading
     Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant
     The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
     Let's Go Home: The Wonderful Things About a House by Cynthia Rylant
     Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant

We spent a couple days on science.  The first week we spent some time learning about snakes.  First we read about/reviewed reptiles from My First Book of Animals, then we read the next several pages about different types of snakes.  I know this sounds like a toddler's animal vocabulary book, but it's actually an elementary level, encyclopedia style book that introduces animal groups and discusses a variety of species within each group.  The three sections on snakes are cobras and coral snakes, rattlesnakes, and sea snakes, boas and pythons.  It's a much loved resource in our home.  After we read about snakes, we watched a ton of YouTube videos of snakes.  Emory was fascinated.

Additional Reading
     Snakes and Crocs and other Reptiles (reader-Step 2)

Snake Egg-speriment
Okay, not really an experiment, more of a demonstration . . . but I saw this snake egg activity and thought it looked fun.  I knew my Emory would love it.  We talked about snake eggs, and how they aren't hard like bird eggs, but 'leathery' instead.  We soaked the egg in vinegar.

This would be Emory, hissing at his baby egg to help it grow!  This kid cracks me up!

After about an hour or so, you could already see the vinegar hard at work.

 When we took the egg out, it had residue, so I rinsed it off and you could feel some of the shell washing away.  Our egg wasn't the same as the pictures we'd seen, not as "naked" I guess.  I don't know if we should have left it in longer (we did the 24 hours recommended) since it was a fresh egg and not store-bought, or if it would have made a difference.  It was still leathery and pliable, so we got the effect.

Animal Fact Files
I found this animal fact file and I love how it can be used for any row.  I intended for both boys to choose a snake to research.  Emory chose the king cobra, but Elliott didn't want to learn more about snakes.  I suggested the bobwhite (we had already looked up its call at his request), but he asked to research the cardinal more since it's the state bird of West Virginia.

Since coal mining is a big industry in the state of West Virginia, and was specifically mentioned as Grandfather's occupation, we learned about coal and coal mining.  I had requested coal samples and their arrival was why I timed this book when I did.  (They are sometimes out of stock, and they take awhile to come, but it was worth the wait.)  We examined all four samples, but did the lesson on Field Testing Coal Samples on one coal type.

Math, Art and Cooking
Although we didn't do the full math lesson on measurement, we did use a scale like in the book.  My kids haven't been keen on the art lessons from FIAR but we spent some time drawing the snake from Art For Kids Hub.  I also made pinto beans and corn bread, and let's just kids don't like pinto beans.  Oh well, the husband and I do!

Next Up:  The Giraffe That Walked to Paris

©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.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing (review)

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing is well-known in the homeschool community for their high quality writing and language arts materials, though I didn't have much experience with their products.  Recently I was given the opportunity to review some of their resources.  I received three items:  Timeline of Classics, Teaching with Games Set and a A Word Write Now.

Prior to this review, I was only familiar with their K-2 Reading/Writing Program (The PAL program I am using this year with Emory is what I reviewed in 2012 with Elliott) so I was interested in using more of their materials to see why IEW is so popular.

Timeline of Classics

 IEW Phonetic Zoo

Timeline of Classics: Historical Context for the Good and Great Books was written by Gail Ledbetter, and it began as a resource for her own family.  It is a chronological listing of literature, and some audio resources and movies, that can accompany any history study.  The guide is divided by major time periods in history:

  • Ancients
  • The Middle Ages
  • Renaissance and Reformation
  • The Modern World

This makes it easy to quickly reference the historical time period you are studying to find history and literature titles for all ages.  The guide is designed in a simple spreadsheet format, and it includes a description of the book or time period, the title, author and a general age recommendation.  The author uses the abbreviations of E for Elementary, M for Middle and H for High School levels.

Obviously this cannot be an exhaustive list of available books on a given time period, but it is a great start for finding books for both homeschooling and reading pleasure.  We are a mix of unit studies inspired by Charlotte Mason, so living books are the heart of our homeschool.  Having a list of Great Books to help facilitate my lesson planning is a blessing.  I have a general outline for our year with topics we want to study, so having this timeline to reference helps me plan ahead.  I can go ahead and research books that might be a good fit and notate if we own it or if I think I should buy it or borrow it from the library.  I have noticed many books we've already read and loved from our core curriculum, and others I remember fondly and can't wait to share with the kids as they get older, so I trust that the books I'm not familiar with are just as high quality.

Teaching with Games Set

 IEW Phonetic Zoo
Both of my boys like games, but my 8 year old in particular is especially thrilled when I tell him we're playing a game for school.  Naturally, I was very intrigued about the prospect of what this could do for our homeschool.  I received Teaching with Games DVD/CD-ROM Set for the review.  Written by Lori Verstegen, the purpose is to give teachers and homeschooling parents the resources and ideas to create a variety of games that can be used across all subjects, with any grade level, and with any number of students.  Games are an important tool for learning, because they help children with retention and critical thinking skills, and of course most kids are more interested when the "learning" is fun!

The games are divided into five categories.

1.  No-Prep Games
2.  Matching Card Games
3.  Question Games
4.  Math Fact Games
5.  Make As You Teach Games

The DVD/CD-ROM is a 3-disc set, and actually contains everything you need.  The first two discs are a recorded seminar showing us how to actually put the different games into play (play - ha, get it?) with actual demonstrations.  The third disc has the games and instructions in PDF format, as well as bonus materials.  While the physical book gives copying privileges to families for personal use, printing what I need from the PDF is much easier than copying out of a spiral book, but I like having the actual book for quick reference.

For every game, there are instructions for play and adaption for different ages/skill level, as well as samples and templates as necessary.  Some of the games were familiar, but had little twists or variations to the rules, while others were more unique.  While there are sample games, the intent is that you will take the material you are learning and make games unique to your students and curriculum.  So for instance, we played No-Noose Hangman with the mystery word "vowels" and the challenge after the word was revealed was for my 6 year old to tell me the vowels and sounds, while my 8 year old had to tell me as many vowel rules as he could remember from his spelling curriculum.

Simply put, I love this resource!  I want to make learning and review fun, but I don't necessarily have the time or creativity to come up with games and activities.  The internet is great, but it's never-ending, and I could sit all day trying to narrow down my options.  Teaching with Games takes the planning and work out of the equation, making it easier to choose games.  Having it handy has also given me the push I need to add Friday Funday.  We do the bulk of new material on Mon-Wed., and then we are out of the house for co-op on Thursday.  I often like to review on Fridays instead of starting new material, and now I have such a FUN way to review each week!  I love the tips for adapting for different ages, because my boys are 1st and 3rd grade, but playing together makes it more interesting, and I can 'kill two birds with one stone' so to speak.

A Word Write Now
 IEW Phonetic Zoo

A Word Write Now:  A Thematic Thesaurus for Stylized Writing takes a thesaurus to a whole new level.  Some children may need a little boost to their vocabulary while they are developing their writing skills, and a thesaurus is a valuable tool.  A Word Write Now has a unique layout and purpose, different from a traditional thesaurus.  The words are organized specifically by categories to allow students a variety of appropriate words from which they can choose.

Section A:  Character Traits
Section B:  Words to Describe
Section C:  Words for Movement and the Senses
Section D:  Appendix

There are quotes, and experts from classics literature, showing us how the topic can be expressed with rich language.  The lists are generally broken down by nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, though depending on the section the type of words may vary.  Each list has a space for the student to write in additional words that they they feel fit into that category as well.

We started out using this when we were discussing synonyms.  We looked at our given words:  pushed, pummeled, punched and pat.  We realized we could look in the section "Words for Movement," and go to the list Words for Hands.  From there we found nouns, prepositional phrases, adverbs, and verbs.  Then we were able to find several more words that might have worked in the context of our study.

What I like about this resource is that it gets you thinking outside the box.  It's not just direct synonyms.  Instead, it provides you with the ability to stretch your writing vocabulary and improve your writing skills by looking at the whole story that you are trying to tell.  The way the sections are divided helps you look at the way words are used and the meaning they convey, which can change the tone of your writing.  It is an excellent resource for students to use independently, especially those who enjoy creative writing endeavors.  As a blogger, it's something even I can use to spruce up my own writing!

Final Thoughts
These are useful resources for  any homeschooling family.  While Teaching with Games is more teacher/parent directed, the other two resources are ideal for helping students become more independent.  I would recommend all three resources for homeschooling families of any homeschool style, because anyone from Classical to Charlotte Mason to Unschoolers can benefit by utilizing them in a way that makes sense for their family.  They would also be valuable tools for teachers or co-op leaders to have on their reference shelf.  You can see full samples of Timeline of Classics, Teaching with Games and A Word Write Now on their respective pages on the IEW website.

In addition to these three parent/teacher resources, some Crew members also reviewed The Phonetic Zoo, so if you're in need of a spelling program, that's all the more reason to check out the other crew reviews, and look for IEW on social media!

IEW Review
Crew Disclaimer

©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, October 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn Walk

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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Koru Naturals: Natural Health & Beauty Products for the Family {Review}

Most of the time when I do a review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, it's homeschool related.  We are a homeschool review team after all.  Every now and then, we get the opportunity to review something that's not about history or language arts or homeschool planning.  Every now and then, we get to review something for ourselves!  This is one such time.  Earlier this year, the crew reviewed a variety of products from Koru Naturals, but I was busy having a baby and missed out, so I just read all the glowing reviews.  After reading such great reviews, I was very intrigued and was excited to be part of this review.  This time, everyone received Skin Clear Cream and Manuka Honey Propolis Soap along with their choice of a few different products.  I received Emu Oil Shampoo and Emu Oil Leave-in Conditioner.

What is Koru Naturals?
Koru Naturals, believing in the natural beauty of New Zealand and the healing properties found naturally in the land, brings natural products to America and around the world.  Their store offers a variety of product lines and brands that utilize ingredients like active manuka honey, lanolin, emu oil, and tea tree to create natural and safe health and beauty products.

Skin Clear Cream
The skin clear cream is designed for those that have acne issues, though it can be used by anyone, even those who do not have skin problems.  We haven't hit that awkward acne-prone teen stage in our house yet, but as a mommy of four who's been pregnant and/or nursing for quite awhile (2 of my kids are 2 and under), my hormones are all over the place.  I have the occasional unsightly blemishes popping up here and there, so I was interested to see how this cream would work.  You are supposed to apply the creme twice a day to clean skin to help improve the look of blemished skin and naturally moisturize the skin to promote skin elasticity.  Honestly, I never remember to use it twice a day, but I like to apply it after my shower.  I like the smell, it's natural without being overwhelming.  (Some cleaning and beauty products quickly give me a headache.)  The creme is very thick and it doesn't take much at all to cover my face, so the first couple times I felt like I put too much and worried my face might end up feeling oily.  That wasn't the case.  My face feels soft for hours after using it.  It's only a 4 ounce container, but I feel like it will last forever.  I have only had one small breakout since starting, and it was hardly noticeable, but since mine were sporadic to begin with, only time will tell.  However, I really like the cream and plan to continue using it.

 Koru Naturals Review

This product does have warnings about not using if pregnant, or on children under 12 years old, so please use caution when using and storing this product!

Manuka Honey Propolis Soap
This soap is made of natural ingredients that are known for their natural moisturizing and skin protecting properties.  The soap comes in a little octagon box (cute, right!?) and is really pretty.  The bee carved into the soap is a great touch.  Aside from being pretty, it smells really nice.  It has a mild, sweet, honey smell.  It doesn't suds up as much as many soaps and liquid body washes do, but that doesn't bother me.  I feel clean and fresh after using it.  It's gentle, but effective.  I really like this soap, and generally I dislike bar soap.  The soap is 4.39 oz but it appears like it will last a long time compared to traditional bar soap.  I think it's a great soap for anyone wanting to use natural products.

 Koru Naturals Review

Emu Oil Shampoo & Conditioner
This pair of products was created specifically for damaged hair.  The term "sheds like a dog" has applied to me since I was a little girl.  Sounds attractive, right?  I also wear my hair pulled up most of the time, because it's just easier with small children, so I also have a lot of breakage.  When I take my hair out of a ponytail I have to brush and brush to remove all the loose hair.  Then I run my fingers through it to remove even more loose hair.  Then after my shower I do that all over again.  Obviously the idea of using natural products to help strengthen my hair was appealing.

The spray-in conditioner is what has the keratin that is supposed to help repair damage and reduce breakage, but after using it a couple of time, I always felt like there was a greasy residue in my hair.  I wasn't a fan of the way it looked or felt, so I decided to just use the shampoo alone to see what I thought.  Whenever I used the shampoo after having the conditioner in my hair, it took a second washing to suds up and feel like I was actually cleaning my hair; I suppose it was washing the conditioner out the first time.  If I used just the shampoo for the day, my hair felt cleaner at first, but I couldn't go a whole day without it beginning to feel dirty, heavy and oily.  I just think the emu oil was too much for my hair type.  Since I can't use the shampoo and conditioner as designed, I haven't seen any real benefits from it, but my daughter's hair type is different and she could probably use it.

 Koru Naturals Review

Final Thoughts
I can't say yet that I've seen spectacular results or anything, but overall I like these products.  Although the shampoo/conditioner set turned out not to be a good fit for me, I can see how it would be beneficial to others.  I like the facial creme and soap, I love the benefits of using natural products and I would certainly try more products from Koru Naturals.  I know my favorite, and most healing lotion ever was an emu oil lotion that my husband's coworker made, so I want to try this orange and emu oil hand and body balm next!

To find out more about their unique brands, check out the Koru Naturals website, Facebook and Pinterest, and be sure to check out the rest of the crew reviews, since we all received different products!

Koru Naturals Review

Crew Disclaimer

©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.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up

Obviously I've been a little slack with the weekly wrap-ups.  I managed Week 1, and then I dropped the ball.  Oh well...homeschool Week 9 is complete.

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

Both boys are doing well in their individual subjects so far.  The novelty of the new "school year" and new levels of curriculum has worn off, but things are going well most days.  We've been back in session at co-op for a few weeks now, and the kids are loving it.  Of course the boys also love their LEGO Club, and I'm so thrilled there are enough facilitators for all the interest they had.

This week we started rowing When I Was Young in the Mountains.  This week we touched on several different things, but we focused on West Virginia and snakes, and next week we'll learn a little more about Appalachian culture and I have a few other fun things planned too, including a field trip!  I'll share a full post on that row when it's complete, as usual.

We had a Friday Funday this week, which was just GrapeVine Studies, a couple of the no-prep games from Teaching With Games (review to come), reading aloud:  The Real Mother Goose for Eleanor and Shiloh for the boys; an autumn leaf nature walk and then watercolor pencils for our nature journals.

Emory is my nature lover and must stop for every creature.

We went inside for our nature journals and I decided to let them try the watercolor pencils.  It's been a long time.  Elliott really liked them.  We'll also be trying the 'experiment' to see what color green leaves will turn, and I hope to share those results.  Elliott said he wanted to do something with chemicals, because . . . well, I don't know why.  I hope rubbing alcohol satisfies that interest.

Weekly Wrap-Up

©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.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: Counting on a Cowboy

Counting on a Cowboy book review

Counting on a Cowboy by Debra Clopton is the second book in the 'A Four of Hearts Ranch Romance' series.  I read and reviewed the first  book, so I was certainly interested in reading this one as well!

We meet Abby Knightly, who became a widow far too young, in such a tragic way.  In a move that looks to her friends and family like she's running from her past, she uproots and moves to small town Wishing Springs, Texas.

Wishing Springs is known for its quaint charm and good looking cowboys after it was featured in the paper and television specials by an advice columnist Maggie Hope.  It was Maggie's description of and love for the small town that made Abby think it might be a good place for her to find peace and healing.  We actually met Maggie and her new husband Tru in the first book, Betting on Hope, when she put Wishing Springs on the map.  Tru's brother Bo Monahan in'ts too happy about the attention Maggie has brought to town, since single women have started visiting left and right looking for hunky cowboys and true love.

Bo is just looking to grow his part of the business on the family ranch, not to settle down and start a family.  When Abby wrecks her car in the middle of the night, he's not sure if she's here to hunt herself a cowboy, or really just to start fresh like she claims.  Something about the pain her eyes haunts him though, and he wants to get to know her.  Since the wreck was due to one of his stray steers, he's helping her out for a few days while her vehicle is being repaired, and she just happens to be with him when he finds a baby on his front porch.  A baby with his last name that he knew nothing about.  Whether he wants it or not, family man is now in his future.  Between Abby and the baby, Bo is a hot mess of emotions.  Abby does everything in her power to distance herself from the gentle cowboy and the sweet baby that tug at her heartstrings, but she can't hide away forever, and she knows Bo needs a friend right now.

Debra Clopton deals with the heartbreaking details of Abby's life with sensitivity, and shows us how different people grieve in different ways.  She also brings us a little deeper into Wishing Springs, helping us get to know the other members of the community, sharing the stories that make them who they are, which makes the book more enjoyable.  This is a great quick read for anyone who likes clean romance novels.

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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.

Monday, October 12, 2015

FIAR: The Duchess Bakes a Cake

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When we were choosing our next study, the boys chose The Duchess Bakes a Cake, mostly because of the castle/knight theme, so that was our focus.

Social Studies
Feudal Society
We started our study by talking about where the story might be located.  We placed our story disk over Europe.  When we do individual countries, we place our story disk on the map inset where the countries are larger and easier to see and the disks can be spaced out more . . . but since we were just going for a general European setting we placed it on the main section of the map.

Our main focus was knights.  I know they had some imaginary play going on with LEGO and with Minecraft, but no pictures to share.  Aside from that, we used several booklets from the Knights and Castles Lapbook when we learned about Knights, and we put them in our notebook.

Go-Along Books & Audio
King Arthur and His Knights performed by Jim Weiss (fabulous story time for the car!)
A Year in a Castle by Rachel Coombs
I Wonder Why Castles Had Moats and Other Questions About Long Ago by Philip Steele
100 Things You Should Know About Knights and Castles by Jane Walker
Knight by Christopher Gravett
Flight of the Last Dragon by Robert Burleigh
Saint George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges (Emory LOVED this book!)

Language Arts
Alliterations, Synonyms 
We discussed alliterations and I read some samples of other alliterations from other books.  (Dr. Seuss's ABC book is a great example.)  For synonyms I asked Emory to think of a word and I wrote it down in one column.  Elliott then had to come up with a synonym for the other column.  Simple, but engaging.  Some pairs they came up with:

Small         Tiny
Giant          Humongous
Friend        Companion
Car             Vehicle
Suit            Tuxedo
Mad           Angry
Happy        Joy
Roar          Growl

A great resource for teaching synonyms and improving vocabulary and writing (aside from a typical thesaurus) is A Word Write Now.  There's actually a section for "Words for Movement and the Senses" so the section on hands fit well here, due to all the pushing and patting the Duchess does!  I'm reviewing this and I'll have more to share later.

The Number 13
I created a simple worksheet for each boy.  Elliott's had a lot of the suggestions from the manual.  Emory's involved place value and drawing 13 objects.  Thirteen very random objects, apparently.  ;)

Nutrition, Simple Machines
We talked a little about the nutrition as it was presented in the manual.  However, we also talked about the simple machines that we noticed in the book (catapults=levers) or that might have been used in that time period, such as drawbridges using pulleys.  It turned out that Elliott actually made a simple catapult in his science class at co-op and they learned about projectiles, trajectory, etc.  He shared this with Emory.  We also played around a little with this Physics Simple Machines set.

Medieval Art
There were several suggestions in the book for art lessons, but we kept it simple and related to the knights theme.  We learned about heraldry and coats of arts, and created our own shields.  (Not specifically following the "rules" of course, though my 8 year old was interested in the rule about only certain colors being allowed.)

This was a fun row!  We never did bake a lovely, light, luscious, delectable cake, but we're not big cake eaters anyway.  The boys enjoyed the social studies (and art) and I felt like this book offered a unique learning experience compared to many of the other modern history themes we've explored with FIAR so far.

©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.