Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Cat of Bubastes {review}

It's no secret that my family has been impressed with Heirloom Audio Productions.  I'm pretty sure I've raved over every production so far, in which they adapt G.A. Henty novels into fabulous audio theater productions.  The stories encompass worthy morals and character traits, told through exciting and adventurous stories, and the audio versions are just so entertaining.  What's not to love?  Most recently, we were able to review The Cat of Bubastes, adapted from the novel of the same title.

This seems to be one of Henty's most popular books.  I've seen it utilized in several history programs that use living books, but we haven't read it.  However, our experience with this series speaks for itself.  Henty is a unique storyteller, bringing together action-packed stories full of Christian faith, while Heirloom Audio Productions adds the talented voice acting and high quality music and sound effects.  It's a feast for the mind to listen to these, and I was eager to add The Cat of Bubastes to our list!

In The Cat of Bubastes, Prince Amuba and his mentor are enslaved by the Egyptians.  While I fear to give too much of story away, for those that haven't read the book yet, I will say that you get to learn about Ancient Egyptian culture, as well as see how others deal with their faith when tested, all while experiencing a sense of thrill and adventure.  Not only is it fast-paced and full of action, which keeps us interested, there are bits of humor, like hearing that a phrase in one language translates to "You smell like a camel," that just makes the boys laugh.

As always, Heirloom Audio Productions was very generous, and in addition to the 2-CD set, I also received several other digital items to accompany the review:
  • Cat of Bubastes MP3 set
  • Cat of Bubastes E-Book (Henty's original; new color illustrations)
  • Official MP3 Soundtrack
  • Printable Cast Poster
  • Study Guide and Discussion 
  • Inspirational Verse Poster
  • Live the Adventure Letter
  • Behind the Scenes Video
The MP3 set is great for those that want to transfer the story to a portable device.  The Study Guide, though, is what turns this from a history-packed audio adventure into a full history unit.  With background information about the author and Moses, comprehension questions (Listening Well), critical thinking questions (Thinking Further), and vocabulary enhancement (Defining Words), this is already a full unit.  The Expand Your Learning! text boxes that appear throughout the guide are full of random pieces of Egyptian culture, such as the the importance of animals, information about the Egyptian language, and even a recipe.  I also really like how the Thinking Further section has geography worked into this unit too, by using modern maps to study Egypt.  At the end of the guide, you will find additional recommendations for books to accompany a study on Ancient Egypt.  There are also three Bible studies, titled "God Meant it for Good," "The Knowledge of God" and "Idolatry and Tyranny" that can accompany the study of The Cat of Bubastes.  The whole guide is great for discussion starters for our family, but I also believe older children can use them independently for written assignments.

I really think almost any family will appreciate this audio drama, whether you homeschool or not.  Obviously, students learning about Ancient Egypt will find The Cat of Bubastes a very appropriate supplement, but I think that any family that enjoys wholesome entertainment, whether they homeschool or not, would enjoy this entire series!

For more information about the other titles in this series, be sure to check out my previous reviews.
Under Drake's Flag
In Freedom's Cause
With Lee in Virginia
The Dragon and the Raven
Beric the Briton

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

52 Lists: My Favorite Places to Shop

This week's prompt was to list our favorite places to shop.  That's easy!

Amazon - Amazon Prime.  Need I say more?

Rainbow Resource - To me, it is the Amazon of Homeschooling.  Well, not the shipping.  That leaves a lot to be desired.  The depth of their inventory is great, though.

Used Book Stores - No particular one, I just love looking for good deals.  Looking at antique book stores and the book booths at flea markets, or anywhere that has a good deal on good books...I'm in!

Ollie's Bargain Outlet - I almost always find good deals on books and art supplies.

Antique Stores - Again, no particular one, but I like just browsing (when I can go without kids) and looking for fun finds.

Target - We'd always get things like diapers and wipes and toddler clothes there, and you can use your Target debit card to get 5% off every purchase.  Price matching during the holidays and using your red card helps save a ton!  We don't have one nearby now, so I only stop in occasionally if we're visiting family.

The Mall - I especially get a thrill out of clearance shopping.  I do buy things in season, just because it's hard to gauge how much a kid is going to grow from year to year, but I always look out for good deals on end of season merchandise.  I tend to get neutral things that don't really go out of style, like solid polo shirts for a few dollars, or athletic shorts for 47 cents.  However, I also try to find the hidden gyms that can be used for the upcoming season.  I've been hitting up stores the last few weeks, and Old Navy had long sleeve button down shirts, so I got several for my oldest son for church.  Gymboree already had what I think was their first fall (back to school) line on clearance, and we got lucky because the day we went was an additional 40% off the store.  Plus I had a coupon!  I got several dresses that will transition into fall and winter with leggings/tights, or by adding a nice cardigan.  It's just a matter of really looking through the racks and seeing what might work.

Grocery Store - No, just kidding.  Husband does all the grocery shopping!

Where are your favorite places to shop?

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

52 Lists: Autumn Bucket List 2016

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Friday, September 9, 2016

And Then He Was Seven

I never did share anything about Emory's birthday.  It's several weeks past now, the batman cake is long gone, the balloons popped and (some of) his birthday money spent.  He is seven, but the birthday "excitement" has faded for now.  I still just have to say though, that this little boys melts my heart.

As a baby, he cried a lot.  He had to be held for six months, and still didn't sleep through the night consistently until 14 months.  As a toddler, he was spirited and stubborn.

Now . . . he is growing into an easy-going kid who takes everything as it comes.  He loves nature.  He wants to be a zoologist.  He is a giver.  He is the one who always "buys" mommy a piece of jewelry at the AWANA store before getting himself something, or he offers to buy others something with his birthday money.  He always wants to say the prayers for dinner or bedtime.  He will play dress-up with his sister and has so much patience when he's teaching her how to play games.  He's the comedian, the goofball.  He's my Emory.

©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, September 7, 2016

Apologia Astronomy, 2nd Edition {TOS Review}

We've been homeschooling for several years now, and I've heard excellent things about the elementary science curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries, but I've yet to try them out.  When we were given the opportunity to review Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition I knew I couldn't let it pass.  Although I love the living book-unit study approach we've been using the last couple of years, I was eager to try something complete and open-and-go, but that still had a Charlotte Mason flair.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

Not only have we never used any Apologia science, but as a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooler, I've always used living books with the kids.  Using a textbook would be new territory for us, but the boys seemed really interested in this course, so it seemed like a good time to try something new.

Apologia Astronomy - What is it?
The Exploring Creation series includes seven courses that all take an immersion approach to science, studying one major topic at a time, from a Biblical perspective.  There are three Zoology courses (Flying Creatures, Swimming Creatures, Land Animals), Botany, Human Anatomy & Physiology, Chemistry and Physics, and of course, Astronomy.  Using the immersion approach really allows children to focus on one area of science, dig deep into a topic and really explore it from all angles.  This astronomy course takes children on an in-depth journey through the solar system!  The course was written by Jeannie K. Fulbright, with Damian R. Ludwiczak, M.S. (an engineer at NASA) as a technical editor and content contributor.

To facilitate this review, I received the following:
  • Student Text
  • Notebooking Journal 
  • Jr. Notebooking Journal
  • Audio CD
Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

First of all, this is actually a beautiful, high-quality curriculum.  I've never been impressed with any traditional textbook I've looked at, with their bright text boxes and scattered blurbs of information.  This book, however, has a subdued color palette, a clean layout and beautiful photography.  The hardcover textbook and the spiral notebook journals are sturdy and durable.  The journals are colorful and engaging--I always find the boys flipping through them to look at upcoming lessons.

The astronomy text has 14 lessons, or what one might consider "chapters," with each lesson thoroughly covering only one major topic at a time.  So, there's an entire lesson on the sun, a lesson on each planet, a full lesson on space rocks, etc.  This is quite different than how I learned science in school.  Both student journals have a schedule that breaks down each lesson into daily assignments, combining the text and corresponding notebooking pages.

To make this a year long course, you could just do science two days a week on average.  For the review period, we've been doing up to 4 daily assignments each week depending on our schedule and how many assignments are actually listed for each lesson.  Lesson 2: The Sun took us two weeks with seven assignments, while Lesson 3: Mercury only had four assignments and we completed it in one week.  It typically takes us about 30 minutes a day on science.  At this rate, we're on pace to finish in one semester, though we'll see how we progress as we enter fall and our schedule fills up.

The Student Text
The student text really is written to the student.  It's written in a natural, conversational tone, so I see why it's popular with Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers.  However, it doesn't shy away from technical vocabulary and more advanced topics either.  For example, in the lesson on the sun we learned about thermodynamic fusion, or how the sun gives us colors.  The "Why is the sky blue?" question is answered too!

The website lists it as appropriate for K-6th grade.  I'm using it with Elliott (4th grade) and Emory (2nd grade) and I find it to be perfect for Elliott.  Both of my boys really enjoy science, and Emory also gets a lot out of it, but he's barely seven and his attention span is noticeably shorter during some of the readings.  Based on our experience so far, I'd probably recommend starting this curriculum when the oldest (or only) child is in third grade or above.

Periodically, there are very open-ended questions or discussion prompts to help the children review.  "Tell someone what you've learned about Venus so far."  I love that this encourages narration and allows the child to convey what was interesting and meaningful to them.  There are What Do You Remember? questions at the end of each lesson, and we use these as an opportunity to review together.  {These are more fact-based, and an answer key is in the back of the text.}

The lessons are usually very engaging for the kids, but they both love the hands-on activities scattered throughout the lessons too.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
The kids' take on the model solar system activity--minus the measurements recommended in the book!

So far, these hands-on activities have only required common household items like string, flour, flashlight, pebbles, etc.  The entire supply list is available at a glance in the back of the book.  I've looked ahead, and for the whole course, I'm only going to have to buy about three things that I wouldn't normally have on hand, and those will be easily acquired.  This makes it extremely practical and cost-effective, because there's no hunting down obscure or expensive supplies.  The activities are also easy enough for the kids to do with minimal help from me.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
Learning about solar eclipses.  

Other activities we've done include melting butter with the sun and a magnifying glass (even the 3 year old loved this one), making a solar eclipse viewing box, creating craters in flour with pebbles to demonstrate asteroids making craters on planets, calculating how old the grandparents were when certain spacecraft visited Mercury, and making a model of Mercury, and just today we made "lava" on a volcano when learning about Venus.

For every activity in the text, there is a corresponding section in the student journals, and each activity allows students to record What I Did and What I Learned.  It's not quite the scientific process, but it's a good introduction into the idea of record keeping.

The Journals
The two Notebooking journals are very similar.  Each notebook includes a suggested daily schedule that breaks down each lesson into shorter daily assignments.  The schedule is color-coded, and each color corresponds to either a textbook reading, an activity (hands-on from the textbook or a written activity in the journal) or additional activities that are found in an exclusive science kit.  We've found the daily assignments very doable for attention spans most days.

Both journals include various assignments such as scripture copywork in print and cursive, or mini-books to review concepts learned.  If you're familiar with lapbooks, you'll notice the activities are very similar, but you just paste everything right into your journal.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

There are blank scrapbook style pages to record facts, draw pictures, list additional resources used--basically they can be used for anything the child wants to add to their notebook.  The kids love looking up additional videos online, and I usually add supplemental books, so we always write about that on the Take It Further pages.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
Emory drawing while I read aloud.

Vocabulary is usually reviewed through a crossword puzzle, though a couple lessons use alternate activities.  Usually Elliott reads the definitions aloud and both boys answer.  The puzzle in the Junior Notebook is easier--the first letter for each answer is already completed.

Junior Notebook or Regular?  The Junior Notebook is recommended for Kindergarten to 2nd/3rd grade, depending on child's maturity and writing ability.  I have Emory (young 2nd grader) using the Junior Notebook.  Elliott (4th) is using the regular notebook, which is recommended for 3rd/4th grade through 6th grade.  The main differences is that the Junior Notebook has primary lines for writing, the crossword puzzles have the "helps" in them, and the final activities for each lesson are a little different.  The Jr. Notebook ends each lesson with coloring pages, while the regular notebook ends with the What Do You Remember? questions from the textbook for children to answer in writing.  The regular notebook could be used beyond 6th grade, but parents will probably want to add information about the scientific method by middle school.

Our Thoughts on the Journals  My kids have mixed feelings.  They don't particularly care for anything that requires a lot of writing, and they think the journals do.  Elliott does like writing about the hands-on activities, and I usually have Emory dictate some of the writing for me to help him out.  The boys are also not huge lapbook fans, and so they think the mini-books are neat looking when completed, but tedious to make.  They like the opportunity to color and draw though, so I like that there are so many open-ended pages that allow them to express what they're learning in their own way.

Other Resources
There are multiple other resources that can be used to enhance this curriculum.

Audio CD - For children working more independently, it allows them to still have the option of having the text read to them while they follow along in the book.  Since we do science as a family, I've read the book aloud, and we haven't really utilized this.  It is in MP3 format, and not compatible with all CD players.

Course Website - In the front of the textbook is the link to a password protected website.  This allows Apologia to provide updated links to ever-changing information, or additional resources that are sometimes referenced in the lessons.  We've found some great things here already!

Apologia Science Kit - This is kind of a two-part kit.  It contains all of the materials needed for the 42 activities in the book, but it also contains an activity book and supplies for 21 extra activities.  These "bonus" activities are scheduled into the Notebooking Journals, but the actual directions are exclusive to this Apologia Science Kit.  {We did not receive this, so I cannot speak to the quality.}

Apologia Field Trip Journal - This is an excellent resource for any family that enjoys field trips.  It's not specific to this course, or even to science, so you could actually use it for ALL of your field trips!  You can check out my Field Trip Journal Review for some of the other ways we've used it outside of traditional field trips.

Our Final Thoughts
I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I've enjoyed using a more traditional curriculum.  In fact, out of all the reviews we've done over the years, I am positive this is an overall favorite in our household.  We definitely lean Charlotte Mason and prefer living books, but this textbook wasn't as dry or boring as one might expect.  I love the use of narration and open-ended journaling pages.  If the rest of the Exploring Creation series is as interesting as this astronomy course, I can understand why it is so popular.

The curriculum is almost completely open-and-go, the text is easy to follow, and the immersion approach really does allow children to truly marinate on a topic and learn it at a deeper level.  My kids (and I) have retained so much already, and they're always interjecting random bits of information into everyday conversations.  At dinner, Daddy always asks about school, and they always eagerly share something from astronomy!  They're also inspired to research topics further, and are always looking up things online.  This to me, is proof that they are engaged, and that this course has already been well worth my time!

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
Learning more about solar flares and auroras

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

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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.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

52 Lists: Spending a Million Dollars

This week's prompt was to list how you would spend a million dollar inheritance or lottery winning.  Not that we play the lottery or expect any windfall of money coming our way anytime soon, but it's fun to dream, right?  So here's a mix of the practical that I would actually do, and some are just big ideas for unlimited funds.  The list is in no specific order, but they've all crossed my mind!

  • Build our dream home on our dream property
  • Build my dream library.  I also want this table for it.  Ignore the fact that its a dining set, because it's just fun.  People like to have coffee or eat snacks while they read, right?
  • Build up college funds for kids
  • Tithe/donate/help family 
  • Invest in husband's dream bakery
  • Buy a luxury RV - my son wants to travel this way
  • Go on a shopping spree, for myself for once
  • Hire a regular babysitter so husband and I can have date night once a month or something
  • Hire a cleaning service to come in once a month for the nitty gritty cleaning--baseboards, under/behind large appliances, curtains--all the terrible chores I hate
  • Travel - to anywhere and everywhere our hearts desire

If you had the opportunity, how would you spend a million dollars?

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

BFB Early American History - Explorers

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers
This post contains affiliate links.

Well, we're making progress through Beautiful Feet Books - Early American History.  We finished the first "unit" on Explorers, so I'm going to start sharing how things are going for us!

What is the Guide like?
I already discussed this in more detail before, but essentially I chose the Primary Guide (K-3) because I felt it would be easier to add to it for a 4th grader if necessary, than to expect a 7 year old to "tag along" in an upper elementary/middle school level course.  This post will probably be a little longer, just because I wanted to talk a little about the guide, for those that are researching BFB.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

So?  Is the guide easy to use?  What are the lessons like?  Is it easy to adapt?

The Layout
Although I called it a "unit," the guide doesn't really distinguish any units or chapters.  It just moves from one lesson to the next; it doesn't even have headings to indicate when a new book is being started.  The books are listed in order of use in the front of the guide, which is nice.  It's a clean layout.  Simple formatting and a few pictures scattered throughout.  It's very easy to use.

Schedule and Pacing
There are 106 Lessons.  It is suggested to do two lessons every week for a two-year study for younger students, or three lessons per week for a one year study.  We are currently doing 4-5 lessons each week, and a lesson takes us about 30 minutes on average.  This quicker pacing now will give us a lot of wiggle room for when our schedule gets busier this fall and when we add in supplemental literature or any corresponding Five in a Row units.

Daily Lessons
Most lessons have a short reading, though not all do.  On days that don't have a reading, I usually ask for a summary of what we've been learning up to that point before doing the new discussions.  The short readings really do allow the kids to "get to know" these historical figures a little at a time, rather than trying to fly through a book in one sitting before attention spans wane.  There are usually a few questions or discussion prompts, and a short assignment or two.  The assignments might be a simple coloring page or notebooking/copywork activity, discussing relevant passages from the Bible, a mapping activity, or preparing a report.  The "how to use" section of the guide recommends parents can help younger students with copywork, and I usually do have to help Emory.

Is it Adaptable?
Yes.  I usually do the readings and the notebooking as assigned, but I use the questions in a bit more of an open-ended, narration style discussion opportunity.  You can easily do two lessons a day sometimes, or I guess you could even break a lesson down over two days if you need to slow down.  They do suggest a composition book, but I just used a basic spiral notebook because the pages are larger (for when we print notebooking pages to add to their free notebooking pages) and I can put them in a large 3-ring binder with future history studies.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers
Defining Self-Control

Leif the Lucky
Ingri & Edgar D'Aulaire

This is one of the books that is only used in the Primary level guide (a different book is used to cover Vikings/Leif at the Intermediate level) but it has a 1st-6th grade age recommendation from Beautiful Feet Books, and a 3rd-7th Grade (8-12 years) on Amazon.  Surely it would be adequate for my 7 and 9 year old boys.

Anyway, we were introduced to Vikings through Eric the Red and Leif.  The kids seemed to have a mixed reaction to this book at first, I think mostly because it was one of the first subjects I added back into our routine, so it required them to refocus their attention every day.  To keep them interested in the book, we started telling Daddy what we were reading each night, and so they would rush to tell a different detail or interesting fact.  This means paying close attention to the readings so you have something to tell Daddy each night.  I'm sure Emory's most memorable fact was how Eric the Red was essentially kicked out of the land because of his demeanor.

As for the notebooks ~ I do help with the copywork when necessary.  The boys don't always love the coloring, and I don't force it.  We have used watercolor pencils a few times, and that was a nice change of pace.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

Five in a Row - Explorers
After we finished the lessons on Leif the Lucky, I decided we should interject with a row of Henry the Castaway.  It is a fabulous tie-in with this part of the study.  We were able to read about other explorers, learn about different boats through poetry, discuss survival skills and rivers and currents (which ties into oceans too of course), and expand on maps and globes.  You can see the full Henry the Castaway row.

Beautiful Feet Book Early American History and Five in a Row


Ingri & Edgar D'Aulaire

This book is also of the same age/grade level recommendations as Leif the Lucky, and it's used in both BFB Primary and Intermediate levels.  So you can see why I don't really have any qualms about using Primary for my 4th grader.  Speaking of which, he and I have had some interesting discussions lately, especially regarding Columbus, the myths and half-truths that surround him, how books portray him, and why there is a holiday.  I interjected this book with more details in many areas.  I understand it can be hard to teach about Columbus factually without it being overwhelming to some kids, but I don't think we should do it with rose-colored glasses on either.  

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

The Your Story Hour CDs that are recommended with this study were a mixed review for us.  I think the quality, as far as audio dramas go, was fine.  There were, however, some factual discrepancies that concerned us, and we eventually stopped listening to the second CD because they were having a hard time focusing.  (We do better with audio books in the car.)  I'll have to listen ahead to the others before deciding if the kids will listen to them or not.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

The very last lesson was to compose an oral report about Columbus, and it listed very specific information that was to be included.  I didn't find that exactly Charlotte Mason friendly, because we shouldn't be expecting very specific facts to be regurgitated to us, but rather we should be asking for narrations that allow the child to express what they took away from the story and what connections they made on their own.  I think it's even less appropriate for the intended age range of this guide.  We do this informally at dinner anyway, so it's not like we're not covering this information.  Truthfully, I might have asked Elliott to do it, but I decided to skip it in favor of an interesting read-aloud to end the unit.

Thomas King

In my search for additional resources and authentic Native American literature to supplement this curriculum, I found this book recommended for the other side of the Christopher Columbus story.  Emory had been eyeing it in the book basket for a couple of days and couldn't wait for me to read it!  It was silly and humorous, and a little different from our typical classic literature, but they liked it.  Emory never left my side, and even Eleanor (3.5) sat through the whole book.  The next day she said "That was a weird book . . . and she (Coyote) didn't follow the rules!"  She didn't understand the actual story line, but both Emory and Elliott were engaged with the book the whole time.  Since we'd already talked about Columbus's less-than-stellar actions, the message wasn't new, but the book was still a great addition, and I liked the alternative ending to our study.  

Additional Resources Used
Homeschool Share Italy Lapbook
Columbus's First Voyage

Looking Forward
We'll be starting Pocahontas next week, and then Jamestown.  Elliott has already taken the guide to look through the literature list to see what books we're using next.  I take this interest as a good sign!  I also briefly mentioned looking ahead to science for next year, which seems silly since we just got started with this year's curriculum, but that's how my mind works.  I need to weed out possibilities and narrow down solid choices based on how we progress this year.  Anyway, I mentioned some different options, then I said there was a science course like this one from Beautiful Feet Books, and he immediately said THAT ONE!  It's obviously too early to make any decisions, but it was already at the top of my list.  I just think that means we're off to a great start with Beautiful Feet Books!

Related Posts
Early American History - The Planning Stages
BFB:  Early American History: Gathering Resources
Five in a Row:  Henry the Castaway

©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.