Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BFB: Early American History - Gathering Resources

This post contains affiliate links.

In my effort to be transparent about our upcoming studies, I'm sharing our new journey with Beautiful Feet Books-Early American History.  I already shared The Planning Stages and how/why I chose this specific curriculum.  Now I'm sharing the supplemental resources I plan to use alongside it to round out our study.  Also, having them all here will make them easier for me to remember.  I'm not always the most organized person, in case you haven't noticed.

The guide is no-frills, no fuss.  I like that.  It's not full of worksheets that quiz pointless things and crafts that will just stress us out.  It's rooted in good books, discussion and simple notebooking activities.  However, I still don't believe you can truly bring history to life without making it interactive.  I don't intend to add stereotypical paper crafts because that's just not our style, but I'd like to add some handicrafts, cooking and art to flesh it out and help us understand how people lived.

I like to have a variety of resources available, should we wish to further explore a topic and so that we can view and analyze history from multiple perspectives.

General Resources
Merriam Webster Children's Dictionary
Picturepedia {a fun visual}
Famous Figures of the American Revolution {This is about as crafty as we get--my review}{review coming soon}

I'm hoping to find at least one handicraft to do for each major era/event that we cover, but so far I'm only finding a lot of that stereotypical craft stuff that we're not interested in.  So this summer I'm going to go through each book side by side with the study guide and see what stands out to me, and I guess I'll share about them individually as we do them.

Cooking up Some American History
I've had this book for ages, and have yet to use it.  This would be the perfect year.  I would like to include a recipe from each major time period that we study.

Fine Arts
I came across some CM style lessons and found Patriotic Songs among the hymns/folk song information.  I thought the study of Patriotic Songs would be fun to do this year.  

Since we study West with the book Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin, I thought we might do a short artist study on him.  Not sure what direction that will take, but I found that resource and wanted to save it here for reference.

I found this website, created by a teacher in Native American schools, full of art projects, as well as some games.  It is offered for free, so that teachers and homeschoolers can provide multicultural lessons and dispel stereotypes.  I look forward to really going through it this summer to choose a few activities.

I own these books already and I thought they'd be an easy resource for art appreciation.

Supplemental Literature
I think we all know there are two sides to every story, so I use books in our curricula as a starting point.  I want to teach my children to read these books with a critical and objective mind, and an understanding that just because a book (or textbook, website, etc) is assigned for study, doesn't mean we will have a clear and accurate picture.  Usually, we're only reading one perspective, and it's rarely that of the oppressed.  Also, the books used in the curriculum are somewhat older, and we're likely to encounter stereotypes.  I want to include a more thorough look at some areas I think could use some more attention, particularly Native Americans and African Americans.  Perhaps they are represented more honestly and in-depth in the Intermediate level, but we're in Primary and it's unlikely I'll repeat the time period again so soon, so I've spent a lot of time researching living books for children that will help give an authentic voice to everyone.  I'll be sharing more about supplemental literature as we progress through the curriculum!

If you have any American history resources that you think would supplement a living books curriculum, what would you recommend?  I'm also open to handicraft suggestions!

©2011-2016 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. {TOS Review}

If you've homeschooled for any length of time, you've probably heard of the idea of notebooking.  Then all the questions start.  How do you actually get started?  How do you cover every subject through notebooking?  How do you grade it?

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
This post contains affiliate links.

If you're like me, you found, but maybe didn't know enough about the Lifetime Membership or Notebooking in general to make the plunge.  I'm here to tell you now, if you notebook in any capacity, it is worth it.  If you're wanting to shake things up and let your child's assessments be more student-driven, it is worth it.

What Is this Notebooking Thing? was created by homeschooling mother of ten, Debra Reed.  It was her effort to reduce boredom, frustration and busywork, and free up her children to learn in a way that would meet their learning needs better.  This website has great tutorials and tips for getting started with narration and notebooking, which is especially useful if you're new to either concept.  Oh, and of course it is FULL of notebooking pages of every variety.  She has them for every subject.  She has them with regular lines and primary lines, with all kinds of boarders and pictures.  She has them with no lines, but spaces for drawing instead.  She has some that are more like coloring pages.  She has it all.

The major categories include:
Any Study
Famous People
Fine Arts
Lang. Arts

The Any Study pages are just general pages that can be used for anything.  If she doesn't have a specific topic you need, or you're in a hurry, grab one of these.  The rest of the categories are divided up into multiple subtopics, so there's quite a bit to explore.

How to Notebook
Oh, let me count the ways!  Really, there's no right or wrong way to use this resource.  You can use it as a supplement to any curriculum.  You can use it to replace standard worksheets within your curriculum.  You can use it instead of curriculum, as they would work well for interest-led learning or unschoolers who just want to pick a topic and see where it leads them.  Notebooking works wonderfully as a form of narration, so as a {relaxed} Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I've found a couple ways this works well for narration.  Young students can draw their narrations.  Older students can draw and do a copywork passage, or a short written narration if they are ready.  Parents can write out the child's narration for them for kids who can't write well yet.  It's really versatile.

So, how have we used it during the informal summer months?  Emory wanted to learn about Cheetahs.  I read from an animal encyclopedia and he drew on a Cheetah page, found in the Mammals subsection of Science, while Elliott drew and wrote some facts on his page.

We've used Any Study pages to accompany our read-aloud books.  Below was from Who Is Stan Lee? by Geoff Edgers, and we were on the chapter about when he created Marvel.

This particular page was the "handmade boarder" but there are many style and color choices for the Any Study pages.

I printed out several of the simpler pages from the A-Z Animals file for Eleanor when she went through her Big Red Barn phase.  There are a lot of A-Z categories, and plenty of pages with minimal lines and more drawing space, as well as pages with no lines so she can have a whole page to color and draw "school like the boys," in an age appropriate way.  I think we went through at least a pig, horse, and cow.

I also have so many ideas for future studies when we dive back into our curriculum.  For history, the new curriculum we're trying encourages notebooking, so I plan to use this website extensively!  I know we'll be learning about a few different explorers and their journeys, so I'm going to print some of the maps from the Geography section.  I'm also planning to use a variety of the Famous People pages as we study them during history.  I'm creating our own introductory chemistry curriculum, with a branch of study on geology, so we'll use the experiment pages, and probably some of the nature study pages, and scientist pages.  I know some of the animals will line up with preschool themes for Eleanor this year, and I'll be poking around to find other simple pages for her.

There have been a few less-common topics/people I've wanted, but I can make do with the non-specific or Any Study pages.  There's really an endless supply, and I feel like this is a resource that definitely works with the growing/maturing homeschooler.

I did notice some things not included that I would have expected--for instance, Father's Day is included, but Mother's Day is not.  Obviously the more general pages can be used for any topic, but I found that one in particular odd.  I would also love to see Field Trip pages.

I really like the depth of content available, but the website can be visually overwhelming for me.  Before I log in, it feels cluttered with the dark text boxes and the popups and social media sidebar and such.  Once I log in and actually go to the Member Center, it cleans up quite a bit, but then I see quotes from customers everywhere, which is a little distracting to me.  However, the website itself is very easy to navigate, and I like the pop of green to break it up once I'm logged in.

Everything is clearly labeled, though I admit to completely overlooking the Search tab for awhile.  I guess I'm used to stationary search bars at the top or bottom of websites, and this Search tab disappears as you scroll.  The Search feature is a necessity though, and handy, because something may not be in the category where you expect it--Benjamin Franklin isn't under Famous Scientists, but you can find him in three other areas.  Or, you may want to see all of the available pages for one topic.  For instance, Bats are located under A-Z animals for letter B, and  under the Mammals section of Science/Nature Study.  Depending on why we're studying Bats and which children I need it for, I like being able to access all of the available resources quickly to see which pages are most applicable.

The only issue I have is with opening the PDF files.  I prefer PDFs to open in a new browser tab so I can automatically see it, but these do not. They automatically download, then I can open them in the browser.  If I have a lifetime membership, I'd rather not download everything, and just access them later when/if I need them again.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I am very impressed.  The thing about Notebooking is that there's not really a wrong way to complete the page.  It's not about fill-in-the-blanks or multiple choice.  Instead, it allows the child to make their own connections and express their thoughts any way they want.  It's open-ended and child-centered, while still providing tangible proof of learning and portfolio fodder, if you need it.  The Lifetime Membership provides you with more resources than you could possibly ever use.  This is a quality resource and well worth the investment, since Lifetime Membership also includes everything that gets added to the website in the future.  If you are considering the membership, you can check out the FREE RESOURCES first to get a feel for the variety of content available.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews

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©2011-2016 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, June 27, 2016 {TOS Review}

Each year on the crew, I often end up reviewing something I wouldn't have found on my own, and such is the case with the family subscription to from Veritas Press.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

What is Veritas Press?
Veritas Press offers curriculum for Classical Christian Education, and is a more relaxed version of their online Self-Paced Bible program.  The program currently allows members to access three major courses:

Genesis to Joshua
The Gospels
Judges to Kings

The courses each cover 32 major Biblical events and they are designed to each last approximately one year.  So essentially you have access to *three* years worth of curriculum.  There are "skits" performed by live actors, animation, graphics, and other interactive elements to entertain, educate and quiz all at the same time.  The program uses NKJV for scripture.

I decided to start us off with Genesis to Joshua, mostly because I like to go in order.  The course is set up as progressive maps and we move through events by completing each lesson.  You receive stars (1-3) based on how well you do.  You can progress with at least one star, and you're always able to repeat the lessons if you need to review, but you can't skip ahead.  The course saves your progress, so you know exactly where you left off each time.  Here we are starting The Fall in the Garden.

Working through the lessons is pretty self-explanatory.  Available lessons are white, and once you click on the white circle, the lesson opens up and begins.  As you progress through the lesson, you're instructed when to complete activities or answer questions.  The lessons in this course are led by Asher and his sister Abigail, and these are live-action videos.  They are very upbeat.  There is a lot of sibling bantering and joking going on, and I understand it's supposed to be cute and entertaining--my 9 year old did catch on and found it humorous--but it's not the type of jokes I find appropriate.  One example is when the brother says people say he has the face of a god, and the sister says something along the lines of how they meant he had the face of a dog.  Sure it was meant as a joke, but I was discouraged to find this type of humor in a Biblical curriculum.

Multiple students can be on your parent account, allowing them to do work at their own pace, or even in different courses.  Even though it is a family subscription, it is designed so that each student works through the course independently.  Because we like to do many subjects together, particularly Bible, this didn't work for us.  I would love to see a way for families to watch the lessons together, and then children to "sign in" to their individual accounts to answer questions and do quizzes.  While it does grade the quizzes, it doesn't record the grades, so if you want to save them, you'll probably want to print them as they're completed.  I do love the positive reinforcement students get for correct answers during the interactive part of the lessons, and so did the boys.

 To fit our family-style learning, we all ended up working under one account.  We watch the lessons together, and I usually ask the kids to alternate who answers questions.  My rising 4th grader usually does the slightly harder activities, like labeling maps.  There is a review song, and the kids found it quirky and catchy, but it's long.  I also noticed the course references their flash cards that are sold separately, not as part of the subscription as far as I can tell.  I didn't see reference to these flashcards on the homepage, only when they were brought up in the course--I finally found mention of them in the Help section of my account when I was poking around.  I just wanted to put that out there for people who aren't familiar with Veritas Press or their online courses.

Final Thoughts
The boys tolerate this program, but don't particularly love it.  This is the only online program we've had technical trouble using--it tends to pause and buffer, even though the "slow connection" light is not lit up on their interface--but we stream lots of videos and use other online programs and haven't had issues, so I'm not sure of the cause.  The buffering drags out the lessons and makes it difficult to finish in a reasonable amount of time, so I think that's part of their issue with it.  My six year old is on the young end of the target audience (2nd-6th grade) so he tends to zone out occasionally. My nine year old understands the material, but hasn't done great with the presentation of the material.  Something just doesn't click with him.  Aside from the two small issues of sibling bantering and it not being quite as family-friendly in execution as we need, I still think it's good quality and solid teaching.  I thing the grade range is spot on.  If you are looking for an online program for children who thrive with audio-visual aids, and want your children to study Bible independently, this program will probably be great for you, so check out their free trial!

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Crew Disclaimer

©2011-2016 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, June 23, 2016

52 Lists: Favorite Meals

Well, this is an easy one.  I like to eat!

  • Homemade Bagels
  • Stuffed Pepper Soup
  • Shredded roast and brown gravy over rice
  • Spinach and Tortellini Soup
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Taco Soup
  • Baked Potato Soup
  • Broccoli Cheese Soup
  • Corn Chowder
  • Grilled kebobs
  • Anything with a side of fried squash 
  • Steak and baked potato
  • Loaded baked potatoes
  • Crepes with strawberries
  • Chicken and Dumplings (Ree Drummond's recipe) 
  • Salmon with roasted  broccoli or asparagus
  • Chicken, broccoli and rice casserole
  • Husband's pasta salad (of the egg-less variety)
  • Spinach and strawberry salad
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

    Can you tell I generally prefer hearty, filling comfort-food meals?  And apparently I have a thing for soups.

    52 lists with Chasing Slow

    ©2011-2016 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, June 20, 2016

    Preschool Scissors Training

    At the dinner table the other night, there was a conversation about ages and grades, and something about Eleanor turning 4 next school year and the next thing I know, she got all excited about Preschool.  "Then I can do school with Elliott and Emory!"  She really looks up to her big brothers, and she likes to be part of everything they do, so I am constantly looking for age-appropriate activities that are fun and purposeful and "feel" like school without being too structured.  I was happy to review a preschool scissors training set that includes My First Scissors and a Kumon Let's Cut Paper Book.  I realized quickly that this set would serve its purpose of being intentional enough to feel like schoolwork in her eyes, but also informal enough to not feel like busywork to me.  Scissor skills are a great preschool activity that build fine motor skills, and these books are so much cuter than those preschool packets floating around online.

    My First Scissors are made by Faber-Castell, and are suggested for ages 4+ but Eleanor (3) had no trouble using them.  Well, it took her a minute to figure out how to hold them, but only because she's already played around with traditional scissors and was trying to put her fingers through the loop.  Once I showed her how to grasp them, she was off!  These scissors are spring-loaded, have round blade points, and their ergonomic design makes them easy to grasp--by left or right-handed children!  Since they are spring-loaded, they are easier to use because they pop back open, which means she can focus on controlling direction and depth while cutting, until she has the coordination to open and close traditional scissors smoothly.

    Kumon Let's Cut Paper books are so cute!  They are geared for ages 2+ and I think 2-4 yrs is the ideal age range with the graphics, but the activities are certainly appropriate for older children who struggle with fine motor skills.  There are simple instructions for the parent on every activity page, but it's definitely designed with preschoolers in mind.  The cutting pages are made with a sturdy paper that is easy to handle and easy to cut.  The pictures are large and colorful and allow preschoolers to cut something purposeful.  They start with short one stroke cuts, then slowly move along to longer cuts and zigzags and curves.  I really like that Eleanor isn't just cutting lines across a plain piece of paper that we'll throw away when finished.  She is cutting animals or simple puzzles that she can play with again, and she takes pride in her little creations.

     Eleanor asks for her "cutting book" frequently, and she will happily do several pages without any prompting from me.  This is a great no-prep preschool activity to add to any preschooler's rotation.  I love that she's doing something age-appropriate and fun for her, and I've already added this to her Preschool Plans for the upcoming year.  I received one book, and in all likeliness, we will be purchasing more from this series, because this will not last all year if she has her way!

    Timberdoodle offers multiple ways to create an age/skill appropriate "curriculum" for preschoolers, so here are some relevant links:
    My First Scissors
    Kumon Let's Cut Paper
    Preschool Kit
    Pre-K Kit

    We've really enjoyed the various products we've used from Timberdoodle, and I'm really looking forward to some upcoming stay tuned!

    ©2011-2016 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, June 19, 2016

    52 Lists ~ Happiest Moments

    This week's challenge was to share our happiest moments.  Easy.

    • My wedding day
    • Finding out we were expecting ~ every time!
    • Hearing the first heartbeat, all four times 
    • Seeing my newborns for the first time
    • Having my VBACs 
    • Becoming a stay-at-home mom
    • Hearing my children spontaneously recite verses or single special Bible songs
    • When a kid comes running "Mama, come pray with me!"
    • All the "firsts" of parenting and homeschooling 
    • Watching the toddler cuddle with the lab {melts my heart every time!}

    52 lists with Chasing Slow

    ©2011-2016 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, June 14, 2016

    Extraordinaires Design Studio {Timberdoodle Review}

    Do you have a kid that likes to create and invent?  Are they a doodler?  The Extraordinaires Design Studio may be right up their alley!

    Extraordinaires Design Studio {Timberdoodle Review}

    Extraordinaires Design Studio is a kit that allows your creativity and ingenuity to flow as you invent the perfect object for your Extraordinaire! You receive 15 Extraordinaire cards, 30 Think! cards, 15 object cards, 5 award cards, and a pen and 50-sheet pad for drawing your designs.  Everything comes in a sturdy plastic case that holds everything neatly inside, but also acts as your "studio" as you design . . . as you can see, everything has its place, and the drawing pad will sit neatly on top of the unused cards.

    Extraordinaires Design Studio {Timberdoodle Review}
    Elliott had to create a timekeeper for a Ninja.  He created a chair with a built-in clock that would change time automatically based on time zones, and would allow the Ninja to rest between his jobs.

    Extraordinaire Cards - Double-sided cards that include the Extraordinaire, their name and level, and on the back you'll find more illustrations to give you insight into the life of the Extraordinaire

    Object Cards - This is what you're actually inventing.  It might be something to sit on, a cooking utensil or something to wear, but it needs to be relevant to your Extraordinaire and their unique needs

    Think! Cards - These cards are categorized by Research, Design and Improve, and have questions and suggestions for helping the inventor to think deeper about their invention.  One example of a Design card is "Break it Apart:  Explain how your design will operate.  What does it look like on the inside?"  These are great for the student who might need a little extra prompting to get their ideas flowing.

    Award Cards - Best Single Feature, Most Useful, etc.  Particularly useful for recognizing the creativity of each student and design, and allowing students to recognize the great things that their siblings/classmates/peers etc have invented

    How to Play
    There are playing instructions that guide you through the process.  There are instructions for single player, multiple-player and Product Design Challenge.  The Product Design Challenge is a more intense version of the single player version, allowing students to complete levels and unlock an Expert Pack online when they have logged their work.

    Essentially, you will have an Extraordinaire and an object card.  You study your Extraordinaire, and then decide what kind of object you will design that meets the criteria on your object card and the needs of your Extraordinaire.  You can use some of the Think! cards to help you flesh out your ideas if necessary.

    The instructions suggest ages 8+ but Emory (6) has also enjoyed it.  He is my imaginative/creative child that can get carried away with his thoughts, as you'll see here.  He was with his Robot here, designing a form of protection.  He studied the card and decided his robot was a security robot that scans people for disguises.  Since he worked security and it might be dangerous, Emory designed a Force Field.  We wrote notes about it on his idea sheet too.  Of course, there was a robot inside of it at one point, but he got a little detailed with the many specific sections of the force field and you couldn't see his robot by the end.  I guess it did it's job!

    Extraordinaires Design Studio {Timberdoodle Review}

    The Extraordinaires Design Studio can be purchased alone, but it is also part of the Timberdoodle Fifth Grade Curriculum Kit.  Outside of using it as part of "school," I think this would be a great rainy day activity or a fun addition to a boredom busters list.  I love that this is more than just drawing a designated object.  You're not following someone else's how-to to get to a cookie cutter finish.  It's an exercise in allowing personal creativity to take over, which is why I think it's perfect for the child who likes to sketch new ideas, create, invent, and imagine.

    ©2011-2016 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, June 13, 2016

    52 Lists: Pet Peeves

    Interesting topic this week.  I won't tell you which one got me the most irritated just thinking about it . . . just in case you're one of those people!

    • Sitting your chair back on two legs
    • Slurping through a straw when the drink is obviously gone
    • Adults who still type like a middle school kid passing notes in fifth period.  You're too old not to capitalize the word I, to purposely misspell words and to use ridiculous slang.  
    • When people cannot put their cell phone down during meals, while driving or basically any other time it is inappropriate to check messages 
    • Stacks of papers, junked up drawers and clutter.  I'm a work in progress myself!
    • Leaving a bite or two of something in the container -- I would rather you eat it all than leave three blueberries in the refrigerator
    • When my children walk in and kick their shoes across the room in all different directions, instead of putting them away
    • Using pee pads for dogs instead of house training them
    • Showing up at my house unexpectedly/uninvited 
    • Cursing or talking about inappropriate subject matter, particularly in front of children
    • People who complain about their situation, but do not take steps to improve it

    What are your pet peeves?

    52 lists with Chasing Slow

    ©2011-2016 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, June 8, 2016

    Early American History - The Planning Stages

    This post contains affiliate links.  

    Next year for history, we will be studying Early American History with Beautiful Feet Books.  I wasn't going to blog about it until well after we started, so I could just share how well it was working for us.  Then I decided I might as well share our entire journey, because in all my initial research, I couldn't really find many other homeschoolers who shared their actual experiences with it.  Well, I found a few blog posts about the older editions of the upper level materials, but my search turned up nothing substantial for the elementary levels.  I wanted to know how it worked in a real homeschool, what worked, what didn't work.  What the lessons looked like in real life, what the planning would be like for me.

    Finally, finally, I came across a blog, A Story in Time, where a real homeschool mom shared her experience with Beautiful Feet Books because she couldn't find the same things I was looking for when she searched either.  If other homeschoolers feel the way I do, research the way I do, then I feel like maybe someone who's researching Early American History from Beautiful Feet Books will happen across my series, and hers, and decide if this program is or is not right for their family.  So here we go . . .

    Why Early American History?
    I really did love our former curriculum, and it served its purpose when we needed it most.  I look forward to using it again with the girls, but it was time for the boys to move on.  So why did I go with Beautiful Feet Books, and why specifically did we start with Early American History?
    • Separate history and science - We are now at a point where we want something more streamlined and sequential, and the unit study approach wasn't working in this regard
    • Charlotte Mason friendly - We were doing a literature-based approach, but I wanted to move back towards her methods a bit more, with less busywork 
    • Flexible lessons - I wanted a guide with a suggested flow and sequence, but not something so structured that I would feel restricted to "getting it all done" instead of using it the way that works best for us
    • American History - I read this article about starting with American history (and another similar one that I cannot find at the moment) and it just felt right.  Plus, I know my boys well.  I know this is a good place for us for next year
    Beautiful Feet Books is very CM friendly.  It uses living books and the lessons are short.  There is no student workbook or test booklet just to quiz children on useless facts.  Instead, it offers a reading guide and provides questions and prompts, to encourage meaningful discussions.  The student's "work" is created in a notebook, and the manual does give suggestions for mapping, copywork, and the occasional report.  After going through the manual, not every assignment is in line with the CM philosophy, particularly for the intended age range, but they definitely look easy enough to adapt.  I do plan to share how that goes as we work through it.

    Primary vs. Intermediate

    There are two elementary levels for covering Early American History that could have worked for us.  Primary is labeled as K-3, and Emory falls squarely in this range, being a rising second grader who is technically the age of a first grader.  Intermediate is intended for 4th-6th grades, and Elliott is on the young end of this range, so my first instinct was to use Primary, and just adjust up for my 4th grader as necessary.   I looked over all the samples I could find.  I noticed there was some overlap in the books used for each level, so I started checking suggested age/grade recommendations, and I read descriptions and reviews for the books, and I previewed the samples on Amazon.  I realized that most of the books used in Primary were well within my oldest son's age range, many with a suggested level of up to 6th grade.  I think these books can sufficiently challenge him, especially since we've not thoroughly covered this time period before, because I can always adjust the assignments to meet his skill level.

    If I am able to keep the boys together and meet them each where they're at, I would prefer to do so, and for our family, I believe this is the best choice.   I do plan to choose a few selections from Intermediate for family reading, as well as other books that will give more perspective and understanding of historical events, particularly of Native American culture and slavery, to give a bit more of a well-rounded and historically accurate portrayal of all the events of the time period being covered.

    So Part 1 is done.  I've chosen a time period and a curriculum for our history studies next year.  The next step, which I'm currently doing, is gathering complimentary resources.  I'll write another post soon sharing some general resources that I plan to use to help flesh out our studies with art, handicrafts, music and the like.

    Related Posts
    Gathering Resources

    If you have any resources for studying American history (through the Civil War) that you feel are a MUST for elementary students, please share!  

    ©2011-2016 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, June 6, 2016

    Famous Figures of the American Revolution {review}

    We are preparing for a study of Early American History next year, so you can imagine I was happy to review Famous Figures of the American Revolution.  Part of the Figures in Motion series, these movable figures were created by Cathy Diez-Luckie to help make history more tangible and real to her own children.  There are several books and time periods in the series.  We use a living books approach to history, and it's sometimes hard to find a quiet and engaging activity that also allows the boys to keep their minds focused on the reading.  I especially liked the idea of using this book, because it allows their attention to be on something specifically related to our studies.

    Famous Figures of the American Revolution {review}

    As part of a Timberdoodle review, I received Famous Figures of the American Revolution, a "gem" sized hole punch and a pack of mini brads.  The only other items you might need are crayons or colored pencils.

    Famous Figures of the American Revolution is a consumable book with beautifully designed illustrations that were modeled after authentic sculptures and paintings.  There are 10 people in this set:
    Benjamin Franklin
    Betsy Ross
    Daniel Boone
    George Washington
    John Adams
    Molly Pitcher
    Patrick Henry
    Paul Revere
    Soldier of the Continental Army
    Thomas Jefferson

    The book comes with two versions of each person.  The full-color version is an accurate depiction (hair color, clothing, etc) of the person.  This would be good for children who don't like to color, or for parents/teachers creating ahead of time for a project.

    The black and white version allows children to color it on their own.  They can do it accurately or creatively, bu it lets them take a bit more ownership over it before assembling.  Both versions have the appropriate labels on the back to allow children to put them together.  Pages are perforated for easy removal.

    Daniel Boone in color and black and white.
    Famous Figures of the American Revolution {review}

    The book itself contains a short introduction to each person if you just want a tidbit of background information, and I found it more historically accurate than other sources for children.  For instance, with Betsy Ross, it doesn't come right out and tell you that she made the first flag--instead it says her involvement was made public by her grandson--though I wish it would state that the nature of her involvement is still disputed.  Molly Pitcher does specifically talk about what historians believe, and the author uses words like legends and folk heroes, and I appreciate this because it helps make children aware that historical stories are sometimes exaggerated or embellished.  Of course, it is also up to the parent as to how to present these types of stories.  Additionally, there are several recommended books about the time period and individuals.  Since we are already using a literature-based history curriculum, the book list will be a nice reference if I need supplemental titles.

    The beauty of using something like this during read-aloud time is that it's more interactive than a passive coloring sheet, but it's much quieter than my kids digging through LEGO tubs.  I can already see so many uses for these figures too.  For the crafty child, they are simply a good hands-on activity.  They also remind me of paper dolls or puppets, and would be good for narration activities, by allowing children to do puppet shows or acting out historical meetings or events, or allowing the figure to give a little speech.  They would work well on project display boards and in notebooks or as lapbook elements.  I am planning to notebook through our history curriculum, so I plan to use these as we study each individual person during our curriculum and help add a little spark to their notebooks!

    Famous Figures of the American Revolution {review}

    They are printed on sturdy cardstock, so they should remain very durable during use.   They were fairly easy to put together too, but the author sent the specific gem size hole punch and mini brads for a reason--the holes in the figures are small, and regular brads would make it difficult.  The book is recommended for ages 6-12, and I expect the 6 and under crowd will have trouble working the mini brads.  The cutting can also get detailed too, but there is a gray background around these areas, so children who don't have the fine motor skills for the detailed work can still cut their figure out independently.

    Also, I wanted to share that I checked the company website, and the author grants permission to copy her books within families.  With four kids, I do appreciate the author's generosity!  (Licenses are available for co-op or group use.)  If you do copy for a sibling, make sure you use cardstock, and you might want to make sure you copy the back too, because that's where the assembly labels are located.  Just speaking from experience with that label thing!

    Just a little note ~ we started with someone that wasn't specifically covered in our history program, so we can still learn about him now, and I'll see if the kids can place him in the right context later.  Plus, we'll still have the others to do when they do arise in our studies, so you'll probably be seeing these appear throughout the year in my history summaries as we work our way through American history!

    Famous Figures of the American Revolution {review}

    Timberdoodle includes Famous Figures of the American Revolution as part of their Third Grade Curriculum, but they carry other time periods for Famous Figures, if you're studying a different time in history or your kids have a special interest and you want to let them explore on their own.

    ©2011-2016 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, June 3, 2016

    52 Lists: Things that Keep you up at Night

    This week's list was the things that keep you up at night.  Oh boy!

    • The toddler.  No doubt, she gets the top spot.  She still co-sleeps for part of the night, and she's a wild sleeper at that!  
    • The Husband's snoring.  Sorry husband. 
    • Being alone when husband is traveling for work
    • Getting too hot.  I toss and turn and then finally get up and adjust the temperature, and then have to wait until I cool down enough to get comfortable before I can sleep again.
    • Worrying and stressing.  Over the kids.  The future.  Current events.  
    • Netflix or Hulu.  Sometimes I find myself binge watching.
    • Homeschooling.  I often plan at night, or pre-read books for the kids.
    • The computer.  That homeschool planning (research) and blogging often happen during the "quiet" night when their are minimal distractions
    • Reading.  Just one more chapter.  Anyone else?

    52 lists with Chasing Slow

    ©2011-2016 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, June 2, 2016

    Curriculum Choices (2016-2017) for 4th, 2nd and Preschool

    I can't believe I'm sketching out curriculum plans for next year!  Obviously things could change over the next couple of months, but I'm pretty confident in most of our choices.

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Next year I'll still have two official students, one who thinks she's a student, and one who will likely just climb all over us and make a lot of noise!

    Elliott -- 4th Grade
    Emory -- 2nd Grade
    Eleanor -- Preschool (3/4)
    Eloise -- Toddler Tag-Along

    Language Arts
    • Logic of English 
      • Foundations - Because Emory does so well with it and I love it!
      • Essentials - Because Elliott asked to do something similar to Emory.  I think he was a wee bit jealous of the games.  I have the first edition (from a review) and I think we are ready for it now, and will focus on the spelling.
    • Cursive instruction (Elliott) though I'm undecided what program I want to use this year
    • Here to Help Learning - I want to at least finish the flight we were working on.  This is primarily for Elliott, though Emory participates occasionally.
    • Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization because it's fabulous and we all three love it!
    • Various poetry and literature selections 
    That seems like a lot for one year just for language arts, but I'm thinking I will have Elliott only use HTHL at first, since it is a subscription.  Then when he finishes, transition to LOE Essentials, as it can be done in 8-16 weeks based on one of their scheduling suggestions for focusing on spelling.  Emory's Foundations includes all areas of language arts so he's only doing one "thing" each day and it's all encompassing.  Poetry memorization and literature are family activities.

    Geography, government and state history (also specifically required by our state) will be covered in context to the time period being studied.  State history will also be covered informally as we take local field trips to get to know our new area!  I will probably do a full post on this subject to elaborate on some of the reasons behind the choice and the substitutions and supplemental materials I plan to use . . . so expect that coming soon!

    • Math-U-See
    You can't fix what isn't broken!  

    • Chemistry - This is Elliott's request . . . mostly because he wants to do the experiments.  Since I haven't found an elementary chemistry curriculum that I believe is "right" for our needs, this will be the first time I ever write a curriculum for us.  It will be based on living books and experiments.  I'll definitely post more on that as it comes about!
    • Exploring Nature with Children - This is a CM thing, but also Emory's preferred area of science, so there's something for everyone on our schedule.  I really like the weekly prompts and extra ideas in this, though I wish it had a student book.  I may create one with, which I'm currently reviewing.

    • Typing - This isn't something we've been consistent with, but with Elliott using the computer more to type stories and such, he needs to start a typing program before developing bad habits
    • Coding- Elliott asked if he could make his own video games, so I pulled out two complimentary resources I'd been given and he has started working through them in his free time.  I'm not making this into an assignment--I just want him to enjoy it!

    Emory isn't really interested in these types of activities yet, but he gets basic computer skills in when he occasionally requests to do school on the computer--I usually pull up a phonics or math website to let him review.  

    Fine Arts
    • Picture Study - I have some ideas and resources to tie our art appreciation in with our history this year, so we'll be focusing on that angle.  I'll share more when I flesh out our history plans.
    • ARTistic Pursuits - for our creative outlet, and various other resources will be strewn and available at all times
    • Music - I'm thinking we'll focus on patriotic songs this year to go with history; I also have some Maestro Classics for the car and some other resources we might use

    • Bible/Scripture - The boys will continue with AWANA at a new church next year, but I'm just not sure what we're going to do for group time yet.  I'll share more when I decide.
    • There are some other subjects like Health, Physical Education and First Aid/Fire Safety that are required by the state, but are more informal and have always been covered through other subjects, real life application, or outside classes
    • Classes, co-op, sports and other extra-curricular activities are still undecided.  Since we just moved at the "end" of the traditional year, I'll spend some time becoming familiar with what is offered in the area and hopefully we'll find some activities that will work for our family

    I did share Eleanor's Preschool Plans too.  Her "plans" are not structured or scheduled, because that's just not my style, particularly for her age.  They are, however, my go-to resources.  They are resources full of ideas, inspiration and encouragement for the type of environment I want for the preschool years.  These books offer me a starting point when my momma brain is fried, but they are simple and engaging and educational and fun, all rolled into one for my sweet little learner!

    Have you started planning yet, or are you already finished?

    ©2011-2016 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, June 1, 2016

    Hey Mama! It's Time to Start Planning! {TOS Review}

    In the homeschool world, there are a wide range of "styles" when it comes to planning and record keeping.  Some people like to plan the whole year in advance, with complete color coded lesson plans and timetables.  Some don't plan anything in advance.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I like a loose idea of what we're going to do for the year, even for the weeks ahead, but I really just take it one day at a time, just doing the next thing.  I've been reading about loop scheduling, and I guess I've always done a version of that without realizing it, but that means I can't plan the way so many homeschooling planners are designed.  I'm more of a record-keeper after the fact.

    Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner (review)
    This post contains affiliate links.

    In that sense, I was happy that we were able to review Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse, and I'm thrilled to share a coupon code with you too!

    Take a good look!  Isn't it gorgeous? The planner is almost 200 pages of sheer goodness! The covers are thick and it has a sturdy wire binding--this allows me to use and abuse without sacrificing the quality. I can open it flat or fold it around and I don't think it will easily fall apart like the plastic comb binding of some books.

    While the cover doesn't scream homeschooling, the pictures are quaint and homey, and that theme is carried throughout the planner when each photograph is featured with information about the item and how it was used.  I find these fun little tidbits interesting!

    Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner (review)

    Inside the Hey Mama Schoolhouse Planner you will find just about everything you will need to plan and organize your homeschool year!  Some of the primary features:
    • 2016-2018 yearly calendars ("at a glance style" no room to write notes)
    • Monthly calendars for July 2016-June 2017 to write in appointments or other important dates, with a full page for notes for each month
    • Weekly undated, unlabled calendars
    • Goal planning pages
    • Attendance Chart (180 days)
    • Reading logs
    • Curriculum planning sheets
    • Homeschool Contact List
    • Academic Helps--writing prompts, story starts, timelines, US Presidents and Wives, etc
    • Transcript help
    • Checklist and Skills Learned
    • Other Courses log
    The planner is functional for your homeschool planning or record-keeping, or both!  Now, since the weekly calendars don't start until July, I haven't really started using the main part of the planner yet, but I think I know how I'm going to use it.  There are suggestions on the website for putting children in columns and subjects down the rows, but I'm going to adapt that a little.

    I plan to label the 5 columns Elliott, Emory, Eleanor, Family and Other.  The rows will be days of the week.  Obviously I can write in what each child does individually under their column, what we do as a family every day (poetry, Bible, etc) in that column, and the Other column will be for subjects the boys do on a loop or other irregularly occurring activities.

    Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner (review)

    This works for us because of the number of children I have "in school" and the way we homeschool.  You might decide to label your columns and rows differently to meet your needs, and frankly, I like that nothing is pre-labeled, because I like the idea that I can change my mind and do a different layout in the future if our needs change down the road.

    The Curriculum Planning sheets are great for when you're in the planning stages, but what I'm doing is first listing everything I plan to use next year, then on an extra planning page (since the planner actually accommodates more children than I have) I am listing alternative curriculum that I already own that might be a good substitute, or "back-up" plan should we change our minds.  One thing about being a curriculum reviewer, is that there's always something else to use!  Please tell me I'm not the only homeschooler who curriculum shops in her own closet?

    Now, if we need to change things up in the middle of the year, I won't forget about something we already own because I'm writing it all in my planner now for future reference.  This would be another way to use these pages for families with limited space who keep things boxed up when not in use.

    Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner (review)

    Really, the planner is fairly flexible and adaptable.  I imagine it would work in different ways for different people, but I really like it!  I love all the extras, but the Hey Mama! letters sprinkled throughout are particularly special.  They are a word of encouragement and inspiration, and I think every homeschooling parent can use that little boost through the year.

    Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner (review)

    Final Thoughts
    I really like that the main part of the planner is flexible enough for most families to use it in a way that meets their needs.  I love all the interesting tidbits of information and words of wisdom scattered throughout.  I have used the Hey Mama! planner in the past, and was thrilled to use it again.  It's versatile and encouraging! I also appreciate the neutral tones throughout.  I don't mind color either, but this one is clean and easy on the eye, and should work well for people who like minimal distractions on their pages.  If Homeschooling Dads (or grandparents) can get over the Hey Mama! catchphrase, then this should work for just about any homeschooler.

    I received the printed Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner, but it is also available digitally as well, if that's your preference.  The digital planner would work well for people who want to customize the size or order of their planner for their unique school calendar or specifically for the number of children in their family.  The digital version is also available for free if you have a membershipo to, which is another valuable resource full of courses for all ages, so the planner is like icing on the cake!

    Want to Save!?
    If you are planning to purchase the physical Hey Mama! planner, use the coupon CREWCODE (expires July 15, 2016) to purchase the planner for only $19 shipped!

    Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

    Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review
    Crew Disclaimer

    ©2011-2016 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.