Saturday, November 26, 2016

2016 Blue Ribbon Awards

As always, at the end of the Homeschool Review Crew year, members are asked to vote for their favorite products.  This is a bittersweet post for me, as it marks my last crew post.  Even though I've genuinely valued my time on the crew, I think it's time for my family to take a break this year.  However, I certainly couldn't pass up the Blue Ribbon Awards!  Members of the crew are asked to vote for their "favorites" in a variety of categories, and the kids get to pick their individual favorites too.  It is a fun way to acknowledge all the companies who have shared with us and blessed our families.

So, here are this year's favorites!  These are in no particular order.

Times Tales
Winner:  Favorite Math Supplement
I voted for this in its winning category, because it is a fun way to quickly memorize the upper times tables.  It's mostly video based, with some printable worksheets and games.  Elliott really liked it, and I'll continue to use with the kids because it meets the needs of different learning styles.

Heirloom Audio Productions
Winner - Favorite Literature Resource and Favorite Book, Novel, Audio Book or Audio Drama
Dragon and the Raven
Beric the Briton
The Cat of Bubastes
This is a 3-for-1 because they're all by the same company, and it's sooo hard to choose just one.  We voted for one of them in both of the categories where they won, but I won't tell you which one, because it doesn't matter--it was a random pick since they're all equally fantastic.  Heirloom Audio Productions makes high quality audio dramas of famous stories from history. These are a great way to bring history to life, and are enjoyable for the whole family.

{In past crew years, I have also reviewed With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom's Cause, and Under Drake's Flag, and they are also all superb!}

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization
Winner:  Favorite Literature Curriculum 
This got my vote for Favorite Literature Curriculum but also All Around Favorite.  I ended up voting for it for All Around because it's truly one of the best programs I've reviewed in the 5 years I've been on the crew.  It's appropriate for K-12+ and can be used with multiple ages at the same time.  The resource includes digital and non-consumable components, which means it can be used repeatedly.  The additional audio downloads about reading aloud were very eye-opening and I learned so much from them.  The poetry selections are engaging, yet easy to memorize.  It was a truly well planned and executed product.  The kids have fun with it, even if they do get a tad competitive with each other, and we ALL enjoy this program.
Winner:  Favorite Science Supplement 
We voted this for Favorite Science Supplement and Best Online Resource.  This isn't something we use everyday, but it is something that can be used for every subject, and is open-ended.  Plus, it can be used with all ages, so it's truly a lifetime resource for homeschooling families!

Apologia Astronomy
Winner - Favorite Science Curriculum
This won our vote for Favorite Science Curriculum of the year, and Elliott's Kid Pick.  The kids have really enjoyed science again and look forward to it.  We're seriously considering using another one of their titles next year!

Carole P. Roman
Winner - Favorite History Supplement
In addition to it being our favorite history supplement, it was also Emory's Kid Pick.  It's always fun to see where their minds go.  We read these over several days, because they're lengthy and meaty and packed full of facts!  We've been delighted with her geography series, and I highly recommend you check out her blog and Amazon page, as she frequently offers Kindle editions of her books for free!  While we love our physical books, we're still excited to pick up some of her other titles this way.

BONUS - Logic of English
Winner - Favorite Reading Curriculum 
I'm sharing this as a little bonus, because my review of it was a little different.  Instead of reviewing for the Crew, I reviewed the Foundations Level A for The Old Schoolhouse website, which of course is part of the same family as the Homeschool Review Crew.  This has also been one of the best reviews in the last five years.  I reviewed it in the spring and my then-first grader's reading skills improved drastically almost immediately, and I've since purchased additional levels.  This year my 4th grader has switched to Essentials per his request.  We're using the first edition, which is what I reviewed a few years ago, and it's a much better fit now that he's older and has a longer attention span.  The crew reviewed the 2nd edition and Foundations this year.  It has literally changed the way I approach teaching reading and spelling, and I love, love, love it!  It gets my vote for reading, spelling, grammar . . . everything!

I reviewed at least seven other products that were category winners (some winning multiple categories), but I couldn't possibly list all of our choices here.  To see the full list of winners, and what the KIDS on the Crew picked, be sure to check out the official 2016 Blue Ribbon Awards, and then see what other crew members are sharing in their "favorites" posts!

Past Winners
I didn't write a post for 2012, but here are some previous favorites of ours during our time on the crew.
The Best of the Best:  Blue Ribbon Awards (2013)
Blue Ribbon Winners and our Favorite Reviews from 2014
Our 2015 Blue Ribbon Winners

Meet the Homeschool Review Crew Curriculum Favourites for 2016

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

52 Lists: Thanksgiving Menu

The most recent List was to share our Thanksgiving Menu.  We always go to my in-laws for Thanksgiving.  The menu is large and varied, as there are multiple families across four generations, and we range from 1-89 years old, so my mother-in-law wants (more than) enough food, and something for everyone.

  • Turkey
  • Ham
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Stuffin' Muffins
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Cranberry Salad
  • Rolls
  • Broccoli Casserole
  • Potato Casserole
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Green Beans
  • Corn
  • Fruit Salad
  • Pumpkin Roll
  • Various Pies
  • Cookies
  • Various beverages

What's on your menu??

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, November 21, 2016

Before Five in a Row: Corduroy

Between co-op and Cubbies (and the cute little parent-child activities in the book), and listening in with the big kids, there hasn't been a lot of intentional rowing going on.  She's learning so much naturally, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to do this Before Five in a Row unit when it presented itself.

This post contains affiliate links.  It's helpful for our homeschool at no additional cost to you.  Thank you.

I was at Kohl's and they had Corduroy books and the stuffed bear as part of their Kohl's Cares promotion.  We already owned the book, but knowing it was part of this curriculum, I couldn't resist the bear.  He sat in my closet for a couple of weeks.  That is, until Eleanor saw him.  She just had to see him, touch him, hug him.  She asked if we could read Corduroy.  It was a Sunday, so I decided to throw a quick row together for her.

At the end of the first reading, she hugged her Corduroy:  "She hugged her friend just like this!"

So much of Before Five in a Row {and FIAR} is about those sweet moments, and it's hard to capture the conversations and the learning that goes on during the "lessons," and a blog post can't always do it justice.  We also talked about friendship again when we read Audrey Bunny.  When I read that book for the first time, it immediately reminded me of Corduroy, so I read it out loud one afternoon, without really saying why.  When we got to the end, the little girl was hugging the bunny and she said "She's hugging her just like this" and hugged herself, "Just like in Corduroy!"  We talked about how they were both toys at the toy store who were bought by a child who loved them just they were, and we should love others just the way they are too.  It tied in nicely with one of the lessons in the book.

Pattern Bears
We practiced patterns with our counting/sorting bears.  These are getting too easy for her, but she still enjoys them.

We also talked about how buttons are circles, and I set these counters/bingo markers out, because all of these containers were stacked together.  Eloise likes to join in when the math manipulatives are out, so she was at the table playing too, but she's currently amuses herself by mean muggin when you take her picture.

Money & Piggy Banks
Lisa counted the money in her piggy bank to buy Corduroy, so we got out Eleanor's piggy bank and spent some time talking about money.  We talked about their names and sorted them.  I mentioned their values, but that's obviously not something I expect to be mastered.  Emory got out a bear and named him "Old Mr. Chubbs" and he helped her name the coins.  Eloise got some fine motor practice, because the girls really have to work to get the coins in the slot on the piggy.

Bear Pancakes
This was one of those "it looked good on Pinterest" items.  The kids didn't care what they looked like though, and Eleanor especially was thrilled.  I even gave them a few extra mini chocolate chips and she made a smiley face on her bear.

Corduroy Craft
This was another one of those Not Quite a Pinterest-Success.  I saw this Build-a-Corduroy craft, and I knew Eleanor would love it.  Except, my construction paper colors didn't really match the Corduroy colors.  She also didn't want to wait on me to get out the google eyes and wanted button eyes instead.  She also wanted to draw his smile on, so I gave her a Sharpie and the kid was THRILLED to use a "grown up marker" for once.  She was super proud of him.

Then she wanted to play games with the buttons.  So I gave her this counting mat I printed ages ago, and we did the 1-5 side.  She wanted more, so we did the 6-10 side too.

Then she wanted to play more games with the buttons.  So I found some color mats I'd made (just laminated card stock) and she sorted by color.

After that, I left, but she made her own "project" . . . she laced all the buttons on a chenille stick. "Did you see that?  I squished my eyes shut like this!"

This was such a sweet row, and she sleeps with Corduroy every night now.  I've also added A Pocket for Corduroy to her Christmas list, since she adored this book so much.

I'm behind posting, because we've since rowed Play With Me, and we're preparing to row Prayer for a Child for Thanksgiving . . . but maybe I'll get caught up soon!


©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, November 15, 2016

52 Lists: Gratitude List

This week's 52 Lists was a Gratitude List, which is obviously very fitting during this time of year.  Of course, I think it's important that we remember to be thankful for our blessings every day, not just 30 days out of the year.  Regardless, Thanksgiving makes us more aware of our blessings, both large and small.

  • My family - My parents, my siblings, my husband, my children, my in-laws and my extended family have all made me who I am today.  I am thankful for their love and support.
  • Church Family - I am thankful we have found a new church home, but that we can still have fellowship with our former church family.
  • Salvation - I have a home here, and a home for eternity.
  • Homeschooling - It's an honor and a blessing to homeschool my children.  It is hard sometimes, but it's worth the perseverance 
  • Friendships - Old friends who are always there, and new friends, especially those that are in the same stage of life and just "get" what you're going through
  • Knowledge and Learning - The ability to learn and grow right along with my kids is a blessing that not everyone takes seriously.  I am thankful that I can keep reading, researching and learning
  • Husband's Job - I am thankful that he has a job with a good company, and that it allows me to stay home with the children 
  • Home - We have a spacious house, beds to sleep in, a stocked pantry and fridge, heat, a yard to play in, and everything we need to make this house our "home" 
  • The Little Things - Books, Laughter, Pets, Cozy Blankets, Baby Smiles, Field Trips, Family Nights, and all those other little things that make each day special

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, November 8, 2016

Language Smarts {review}

As the new school year is really getting underway, the Homeschool Crew Review is winding down for this calendar year, and I am completing my last review.  It's always fun to end with a review of something I might not have found on my own, but that really works well with our other curriculum!  The Critical Thinking Co. generously offered the crew a variety of curriculum for review, and my 4th grader and I have been reviewing Language Smarts Level E.  Language Smarts is a language arts workbook series that can be used as a complete curriculum or supplemental resource.  Level E is considered 4th grade, so it's been a perfect supplement for us.

We already have a language arts curriculum that we love, but it mostly covers the technical side of language arts--primarily the spelling and grammar side.  I had been thinking I needed something that covered more of the other components of language arts.  It's such a rich subject after all, and there's so much more to explore!  I needed something that would help cover other topics like similes and metaphors, reading comprehension, poetry and thesauruses and all that other neat stuff.  Language Smarts actually covers enough material to be considered a complete language arts curriculum:  reading, writing, spelling, punctuation, grammar and thinking skills are the major subject areas, but the numerous subtopics help you fill an entire year with a variety of language topics.  For instance, "Parts of Speech" has 20 lessons that cover nouns, verbs, pronouns, conjunctions and more.  An entire section on Writing covers the author's purpose, the writing process, personal narrative, opinion writing, and informative writing.  So much more is packed into this nearly 400 page book that I couldn't begin to describe the topics covered!

Each lesson has a box that sets apart a short description of the content being covered, defining any key words and explaining concepts.  Instructions are written clearly and highlighted in yellow.  There are often examples.  Then the activities follow.

The layout of the workbook means many students can work semi-independently (parents and teachers are encouraged to be available for support), so it can be used in a variety of different ways besides as a core curriculum.  There is no teacher's manual or lesson plans, and the topics are fairly independent of each other, so it was easy enough for us to use it as a supplemental curriculum and move around in the book choosing topics that met our needs.

As I said, our language arts curriculum covered the technical side of reading and writing, but we needed something that would help us explore everything else.  One week we worked on Dictionary skills from the Reference Materials section, and another week we were able to work on Context Clues from the Reading and Writing section, and then it moves into Similes from there.  This has really helped us round out our language arts curriculum.

I love the variety of assignments.  There are crossword puzzles, word searches, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, write your own sentences, and more.  This keeps the assignments from becoming monotonous or "boring" for kids who like to keep things fresh.  There is an answer key in the back, though I haven't needed it yet.

If you use this as a complete curriculum, it's open and go.  Depending on your child's previous phonics and spelling instruction, and their natural abilities, the spelling section may not be enough; or it may be just perfect to use as review.  Obviously, every child is different.  I do think the rest is sufficient for this age/grade range.

Elliott will often ask for this program instead of his other language arts program, and seems to like it as long as we don't don't too many pages in one day.  However, we both still like the other program, which I feel covers spelling and grammar concepts more in-depth, and that's necessary for us.  Going forward, we have decided to continue using this in conjunction with our "technical" language arts program, allowing this one to offer the "everything else" perspective.

Whatever we don't finish this year can easily be used at the beginning of next year for review.  On that note, I do have one suggestion.  Since the series is primarily labeled by "letter," with this being Level E, I think they could remove the grade level (Grade 4, in this case) from the book.  In my case, the book is so large that we'll never finish it this year using it as a supplement, but truthfully, it just seems like two different styles of labels is redundant.  I think offering a suggested grade range (perhaps 3rd-5th for this particular level) in the product description would be more suitable, and would make it more appealing to a wider audience.

Overall, I'm very happy with this curriculum.  It is available in both paperback and as an eBook, so you can purchase your preference.  There are also levels B, C, and D (approximately 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade) available.  I can see these books useful in different homeschool environments, as well as tutoring sessions.

The Homeschool Review Crew has reviewed various products from The Critical Thinking Co., so be sure to check out the rest of the reviews!

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

Crew Disclaimer

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Monday, November 7, 2016

52 Lists: November To-Do List

Such an easy list.  There's always "stuff" to do!

  • Plan for preschool class at co-op
  • Play/Park dates
  • tweak our homeschool schedule
  • Finish Pilgrims unit with boys and study accurate history of Thanksgiving
  • Before FIAR with Eleanor
  • Momma's birthday
  • Read Cranberry Thanksgiving and bake cranberry bread
  • Thanksgiving - reflect, celebrate with family 
  • Plan for Christmas and December/January birthdays
  • Gilmore Girls!
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.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Peek into our Homeschool: August-October 2016

So . . . I'm obviously not good at the weekly wrap-ups.  I'd like to start doing them again, but if not, I'm going to aim for at least a monthly recap in the same vein as a weekly wrap-up.  So this first monthly recap is actually from the beginning of the school year until now.  That's just how it goes around here sometimes!

Curriculum Updates

Since I first posted about our curriculum choices, we've had some changes to math (switched to TT5 and Easy Peasy Math) and science (using Apologia Astronomy), although those actually took place before school started.  I'm just a blogging procrastinator, and never got around to posting about them.  History is going well with Beautiful Feet Books.  We've studied from Explorers to Jamestown, and right now we're studying the Pilgrims, so it's perfect timing for the upcoming holiday.  Both boys are still using their respective levels of Logic of English, though Elliott is also reviewing a language arts book from The Critical Thinking Co. that I think we'll continue using--review to come soon!  I do plan to go more in-depth with all of our curriculum choices, since they're basically all new to us this year, but I'll do that during the Virtual Curriculum Fair in January!

Extracurricular Activities
Right now we're not doing much extra.  The kids are of course enjoying AWANA, and we finally found a co-op that fits our needs.  It's smaller and more relaxed in nature, and quite a bit different than what we were accustomed to, but overall we're happy with it.  During the first session the boys had foreign language, science, guitar and art.  This next session they will have science, guitar, music appreciation and gym.  Eleanor has had general preschool classes and a music class, but I'll be "officially" helping in them, so I'm looking forward to planning some fun themes!

Homeschool Review Crew
I've decided not to reapply for next year.  It's been such an amazing journey over the last five years, but I really felt led to take a year off.  Honestly, I've never truly homeschooled without the Crew, as we joined right before Elliott started Kindergarten.  I feel like I need to step back and assess the direction of our homeschool for awhile without having new products (as great as that can be) flowing in all the time.  I'll still be doing some reviews, and I'm not ruling out the option of reapplying in the future.  It was just time to slow down for awhile.

Review Crew

A little birdie told me that new crew applications are still open, and as of this posting, there is still time to apply if you've been considering it!  {Feel free to put me down as a referral if you don't have one.}

Homeschool Coffee Break

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