Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Milton Hershey Unit Study {YWAM Publishing Review}

I have heard a lot of good things about YWAM Publishing, so when we had the opportunity to review one of their books, I was intrigued.  I looked through the Heroes of History titles to see who would line up with our history studies.  Then I thought, since we're finished with formal history for the year, why not choose someone we're unlikely to study in the course of a traditional history program?  Upon seeing the book Heroes of History- Milton Hershey by Janet and Geoff Benge, I knew I'd found a great choice!  It just sounded like fun and I knew the kids would enjoy it.  Who wouldn't want to study the man behind the famous chocolate bar?
YWAM Milton Hershey

The Book
Milton Hershey: More Than Chocolate is a 192 page paperback.  Although I thought we'd be getting a diversion from our regular history studies, Milton Hershey's childhood years took place during the Civil War, which is where our current studies had just ended.  The book does an excellent job of weaving in current events and how they affected Hershey's childhood and life in general, so we actually got a lot of incidental but relevant history just through reading the book.

I requested the study to use with my 10 year old son, but we were using it as a read-aloud, so my 7 year old began listening in as well.  We found the beginning, Milton's childhood, a little slow-paced at first, but once it got to his apprenticeship making confectionaries, the boys became more interested.  It became our lunchtime reading, and both boys really enjoyed it.  They were always stopping to ask questions or admonish at something crazy Milton did or to discuss one of his failures.  Due to the wanderlust and get-rich-quick schemes of Milton's father, and Milton's own failures and successes, we had plenty of opportunity for discussions about happiness, contentment, perseverance and more.

YWAM Milton Hershey
You can't read about a confectioner without eating his chocolate!  

The Unit Study
YWAM generously sent a digital copy of the Milton Hershey Unit Study Curriculum Guide as well.
The Unit Study comes in two main parts.  The first section is how to utilize the guides depending on your situation.  The Homeschool section even includes a timeline for using all of the books/guides for a thorough U.S. History curriculum.  The fact that they include small group and classroom options means the studies could be great for utilizing in book groups or co-ops as well.

YWAM Milton Hershey

Then the Unit Study section is specific to expanding the specific book in a variety of subjects, including:
Essay Writing
Creative Writing
Reading Comprehension
Public Speaking

Part One has all of the material and suggestions, while Part 2 has a printable biography sheet, map and timeline.  We have done a lot of literature-based unit studies over the years, so I'm very familiar with them.  The recommendation of 10-15 years old is pretty accurate.  There are enough activities to engage younger students, but many of the topics are appropriate for older students to study in-depth.  For instance, some of the topics include the history of Pennsylvania, wars, transportation during Hershey's lifetime, the Great Depression and more.  This book and unit study certainly stand on their own, but I could see them being extremely useful as an addition to a Pennsylvania state history course or as part of an elective on Business or Entrepreneurship.

YWAM Milton Hershey

We focused on the vocabulary and chapter questions, but I also went through the recommended reading materials to assign independent reading.  My 7 year old loved the suggested non-fiction reader about the history of chocolate, and my 10 year old read a literature book that I wasn't familiar with, but he found interesting.  There's another famous chocolatey literature selection that immediately came to mind, and the book and movie are both mentioned in the guide.  Those are already family favorites, but since it's also an upcoming book in my 7 year old's language arts program, we're going to enjoy it all as a family again very soon!

Final Thoughts
The book is well-written and engaging.  Hershey Milton was definitely an interesting person, and my kids were actually captivated and fascinated with this man.  The unit study adds another dimension to your studies, and is useful for a variety of ages.

The Homeschool Review Crew has 100 reviewers total discussing 30 other books and unit studies, so be sure to check out the variety that YWAM has to offer!

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Christian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing Reviews}

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©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Friday, May 26, 2017

Final Thoughts on Beautiful Feet Books Early American History

This post contains affiliate links.

From the very beginning of our homeschool journey, I knew I wanted literature-based curriculum.  To this book loving momma, there wasn't a thought more perfect than learning through real books.  We found our rhythm for a couple of years, but then decided we were looking for something a little different.  I was immediately drawn to Beautiful Feet Books.  Living books, short lessons, gentle notebooking assignments, no busy work, compatible with Charlotte Mason . . . obviously I couldn't resist!

You can read more about why we chose Early American History and the Primary Level in The Planning Stages, but essentially it boiled down to choosing an appropriate time period and being able to combine the boys in the best way possible for both of their learning styles.

So now that we're finished with our first year, what are my final thoughts?  Did we like it?  What would I change?  Will we use Beautiful Feet Books again?

Did we like it?
Yes!  If you've read my other posts, you might be wondering about some of the "issues" I addressed.  Those were primarily related to the fact that some of these lovely books are older, so there is some outdated language and stereotypes within the books.  I also want to address the fact that I don't believe in censoring out everything that makes us uncomfortable; we choose to use these opportunities to have these conversations now with our children.  There were some books we didn't love, but that will be the case with any literature curriculum.  There will occasionally be a book that doesn't resonate with one of us, and while unfortunate, it doesn't mean you can't learn from it.  Overall, the books chosen were well-written and such a good fit for us!

What would I change?  
About the actual curriculum - not much.  I would have appreciated a list of supplemental living books  for elementary ages for following rabbit trails, but other than that, I found the guide easy to use.  The lessons seemed to flow so naturally, and I didn't feel the need to supplement with all the "bells and whistles" that I'd searched out before we started.  So I did add a book or a website or a simple activity here and there, and that was enough for us.  After all, one of the primary reasons I chose Beautiful Feet Books is because of the simplicity.  I do wish I'd taken the time to do a proper artist study on Benjamin West, but maybe we'll study him as a family when the girls get to this study!

When I did alter something for our personal needs, I found the guide flexible and easy to adapt, without compromising the integrity of the program.  That is what makes a guide nearly perfect to me!

Would we use BFB again?  
Yes!  I found several new living books that I adore.  We all learned so much through this course, and we've had some amazing heart discussions.  What more could I ask for?  It'll be awhile before the girls are ready for this course, but I certainly intend to hold on to the guide and literature for them.

What are we using next year?
I don't know!  There are so many great options with Beautiful Feet Books.  I definitely want the new Teaching Character through Literature, because we can use it for family read-alouds or independent reading at their respective levels.  Otherwise, I'm still researching.  We have the option to continue chronologically and continue with American history, or skip around to something else.  There's the Geography, and the History of Science that both look great.  We might be interested in the new Around the World program, but it won't be out until September, and I've not seen any samples or booklist yet, so that's a long time to wait to make a decision!  Husband and Emory have both mentioned Ancient Egypt, so starting a formal history rotation is also an option.  I will certainly update with our full curriculum choices . . . if we finally narrow it down!

To read all of the posts about our journey with this program, check out my entire series for this Early American History study.

©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Typing Coach {review}

The Typing Coach Review
There is no denying that computers are an integral part of our lives, or that typing is an essential skill.  Poor typing skills makes many simple tasks like writing reports, filling out applications or resumes, or inputting data on a job a time consuming task, if not impossible for some people.  The Typing Coach recognizes the need for quick error-free typing, and has created The Typing Coach Online Typing Course to help students overcome poor techniques in order to build solid typing skills.

The course was originally designed for middle and high school students by an experienced typing teacher, but the course has also been adapted for 8-11 year old students as well.  Younger students can take the core of the course at a slower pace and begin to learn good posture and foundational typing skills.  There are specific instructions and a separate Student Packet for the younger student, as well as as guidance for how to evaluate their progress.

My 10 year old has started to use the computer more, and asked if I could teach him to type, so he has been the one using this course.  It is a no-nonsense, twaddle free approach to teaching typing.  There are no avatars or games or cartoons.  Essentially, you will make sure your screen is off (or covered) so that you cannot focus on mistakes and backspacing.  You will open a blank word processing document and listen to the audio lesson, typing as instructed, or type from the student packet.  The parent should be keeping an eye out for posture and technique, especially when working with younger students.  The lessons can feel lengthy, but stretch breaks are worked in, so focus can be maintained for the duration of the lesson for most students.  There is a Practice and Testing Center built into the program, so that you can monitor progress.

The Typing Coach review

What Did We Think?
I like that the course is straightforward and no-frills.  Not only does the lack of games and edutainment features mean my son has no incentive to rush through a lesson, it means it can be used by learners of all ages without feeling childish.  Since you can't truly proceed without mastery, there is sometimes frustration when a lesson needs to be repeated, but it also means he needs to train himself to focus on the lesson at hand to improve his skills.  Easily distracted students (mine) might prefer headphones to block outside noises.

I will admit, I found the course navigation a little cumbersome. There were multiple documents to read, videos to watch and packets to print before starting, and everything seemed to open in new tabs.  I'm not a fan of videos; my preference is always reading over audio/video (I process more quickly and efficiently when I read), so I would have appreciated transcripts for some of the videos.  Overall, I think the introductory material could be streamlined a little more.

The course is thorough, and the instructions are clear.  The lessons are spoken directly to the student, and Elliott was never confused within the lessons.  However, my son is not an auditory learner, and while I was hoping this would help his attention levels with auditory materials, he found it tedious.  He's working slowly through the course because of this, but I have noticed that he's recalling and applying information from this course at other times, so he is learning from it!

To find out how other families have used this course in their homes, make sure to read more reviews!

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc. - Thin Stix {review}

Once in a while, I find a product that I wholeheartedly love for our homeschool.  The current love of mine is Thin Stix!  Thin Stix 6 pk of Classic Colors are from The Pencil Grip, Inc, and they are great for all ages, but they are now a permanent part of my preschool arsenal.

The Pencil Grip, Inc

We've been blessed to review Kwik Stix before, but let me remind you of why I am in love.  The Kwik Stix brand offers solid tempera paint in a stick, which is easy for preschoolers to use.  Uncap, twist, paint.  There is no water or wet paints and it dries in 90 seconds.  What does that mean?  It means no drips, smears, or messes.  They are easy and fun for the kids, and quick and nearly mess free means great for mom!

Here's one of the projects we did recently.  My 2 year old came home with a "flower face" craft one night, and my 4 year old wanted one as well.  So we made one, improvising on the supplies and utilizing our Thin Stix!  I had some foam printing plates in our art cabinet from previous projects, so we cut one into a circle and cut out an opening for her face, and she painted it yellow.

Then she painted a craft stick green for the stem.

She asked for circle flower petals, so we cut those out quickly.  We glued everything together, and ta da!  She had a flower face that looked similar enough to her sister's to make her happy, but uniquely her own!

In addition to the foam and craft sticks, we've used our Kwik Stix on various types of paper, and wood projects, and recently on cardboard.  This was my preschooler's family portrait, though it wasn't until after I took the picture that she realized she forgot to add herself!  No matter what we've used, the paint goes on clean and smooth, and the colors remain vivid.

When painting with other paints, I often elect to do it during nap time.  It's just easier.  However, with Kwik Stix, the two year old gets to join in too because these are so easy to use.  She is still just experimenting with colors and marking on paper right now, but it's a good way for her to participate with the big kids in a developmentally appropriate way.

{These are non-toxic, but also labeled not for children under 3 years of age . . . I certainly recommend caution and close supervision when using with young children, because they can pose a choking hazard.}

The Thin Stix are great for motor skills, because of capping/uncapping, twisting and controlling the paint stick. They are my go-to for quick or impromptu art projects because I don't have to get out paintbrushes, water cups, and paper towels, and we don't have to wait for paint projects to dry.  Just one more reason they are ideal for preschoolers!  They're literally a grab-and-go supply, and they're also easy for little ones to clean up when they're finished!

The Thin Stix are slightly longer and thinner than the originals, giving a little more precision, but both are fabulous products and will be a staple in my art cabinet for a long time!  Thin Stix and other Kwik Stix options come in different sized packages and color options at your favorite retailers like Amazon and ToysRUs, so be sure to check them out!

Also feel free to check out my previous reviews of the original Kwik Stix and the Thin Stix, to see other projects we have completed.

Thin Stix by KwikStix

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If you want to see how other crew members are using the Kwik Stix, especially with older kids, be sure to check out the other reviews!

No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Friday, May 19, 2017

Freebie: History by the Decade Coloring Books

I have a fun FREEBIE to share today!  Bonnie Rose from Write Bonnie Rose has created  History by the Decade Coloring Books.  These were too neat not to share!

Each coloring book includes pictures and copywork, and gives a basic overview of major events in American history and events around the world that impacted the United States.

I wanted to share these because they are a fun addition to modern history studies, especially if you have younger children participating who can't do full notebooking exercises.  I'm not usually a freebie blog, and I try to only share things that I will use or I think would be beneficial to others.  I've been going through noting which pages will line up with our studies for next year, and have found some great stuff!  The kids will get a kick out of the technology pages (everything from the phonograph to Wii and Playstation!) but I love that she touches on a little bit of everything--musicians, artists, presidents, sports figures, fashion and trends and iconic images for each decade.  The coloring books cover the 1920's - 2000's, with nine books total.

These are a limited time freebie, but definitely worth checking out!  I've worked with Bonnie Rose a few times over the last few years, and I know she has some great things on her website, so be sure to look around while you're there!

I received advance copies of these freebies.  I have not received any other compensation for this post.  

©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Captain Absolutely

I'm always looking for interesting, but appropriate, books for my boys, so I was pleased when we were able to review a book published by Focus on the Family called Captain Absolutely.  Written in comic book style, it is a spinoff from an Adventures in Odyssey series that was originally featured in Clubhouse Magazine.  It sounded promising on many levels.

Captain Absolutely

The basis of the story is that Josiah King is at the library during a computer explosion, and between reading the Bible for the first time and mysterious radioactive fumes, he transforms into superhero Captain Absolutely.  He must save Metropolitanville from Dr. Relative and other villains.  Dr. Relative was at the library during the explosion too, only he wasn't affected by the Bible.  He landed in the philosophy section and came into contact with relative truth and the idea that everyone makes their own rules.  His mission is to destroy God's word and Metropolitanville.  The book takes us through several episodes of Captain Absolutely dealing with Dr. Relative, Fear Chemist, Farmer Vile and other villains, as they create multiple version of a Lirus, fear-us clouds, vile ants, and other things in an attempt to ruin the city.  Captain Absolutely, however, is able to use God's truth and wisdom.

As a comic, the dialogue is fast paced.  The illustrations are full of bold colors, action and the classic onomatopoeia!  Whenever Captain Absolutely mentions or quotes a Bible passage, the reference is written in the illustration outside the speech bubble.  I like that this is included for the reader if they want to explore it further, but also just to show that each of these statements are more than just comments by the "superhero," but are also Truth.

At the end of the book, there is a Character Guide with fun facts about Captain Absolutely, his sidekick Hana, and the other characters in the book.  Finally, there is a section called Big Questions.  These questions are obviously meant to get the reader thinking about how we treat others, how we share the truth, how we deal with sin and asking for forgiveness.  Kids can read them on their own, but parents or trusted adults may want to use the questions as discussion starters.

This book definitely has kid-appeal.  My boys (seven and ten) were intrigued as soon as they saw the cover!  I think the target age range would be mid-elementary through middle school, though I fully believe the book is certainly appropriate for all ages.  The graphic novel style will make it appealing to any child who is interested in comic strips, comic books and graphic novels, even if they don't love to read.  Ask me how I know!

If you are looking for clean entertainment for your children, Focus on the Family offers the Odyssey Adventure Club, which allows you to stream Adventures in Odyssey episodes, and includes a subscription to Focus on the Family Clubhouse Magazine (U.S. residents), a monthly web quest, and other members-only content.

To find out more about this book, be sure to check out the other crew reviews!

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Captain Absolutely {Focus On The Family Review}

Crew Disclaimer

©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Beautiful Feet Books: Buffalo Bill

This post contains affiliate links.

The final study in Early American History - Primary, from Beautiful Feet Books is a look at Buffalo Bill and the removal of the Native Americans from their homelands.

The only required book for this study was Buffalo Bill by Ingrid & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire.

Like the others, the book is well-written, if not a tad outdated.  The boys enjoyed it, though.  It focuses on William "Bill" Cody and how he became known as Buffalo Bill.  The assignments were consistent with the rest of the study, with a focus on notebooking.  There were only 4 lessons for this book, so it was short and sweet, and gave me time to include a couple of extra books with it.

I added two books, because that's just how I roll.

by Stephanie Salomon

We have a few of the books in this Come Look With Me series.  They offer several pieces of art work with background information and leading questions to really get the kids thinking and observing. This  book specifically focuses on artwork from different eras and tribes from across the country.  I included it because it helps us study the actual culture, diversity and artistry of the tribes.  While it's important to understand history and what happened to the Native tribes, it's also important to learn about them, who they were and are, their culture.  We used this book for discussions over lunch.

by S.D. Nelson

I chose this book for two reasons.  I wanted to include the authentic voice of Native Americans in our study whenever possible.  I've seen Nelson's books recommended, and this is a beautifully written living book.  It acts not just as a biography (though it is written in narrative, autobiographical form), but a living history of Black Elk's tribe and the cultures and customs, as well as a look at the general time period and the removal of Native tribes.  It includes both drawings and real photographs, which my boys appreciated.  (Just a note - I'm not usually one to censor, but one photograph shows a mass grave, so you may want to be cover it with a post it for sensitive children.) The other reason I chose this book is because Black Elk was part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, so it gave us a different look at Buffalo Bill as well, and I was interested to see how he was portrayed.  The author said Buffalo Bill paid them and treated them fairly.  This book is wonderful on its own, but turned out to be a great addition to this study for the broader perspective on the general time period and giving us a little more information about Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Tours.


There's so much more we could have explored with the west and Native Americans, but we're going to come back around to that.  Overall, this was a fantastic study!  I will probably be writing a "final thoughts" type post soon, because I still have more thoughts rumbling around in my head, especially as we try to narrow down curriculum choices for next year!

©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Homeschool Rescue {review}

Homeschool Rescue Review

I imagine that most homeschooling parents have felt it at some time.  Homeschool Burnout.  It often comes with a side of inadequacy, doubt, or guilt.  We get into a routine that sometimes becomes drudgery, we suddenly become panicked or overwhelmed, our schedule is too full, we worry about curriculum choices, or we get confused about which direction to take.  I know I can't be the only one who has questioned one of the biggest decisions I've ever made, because Heather from Only Passionate Curiosity has developed a course for homeschooling parents in the throes of these mixed feelings.  Homeschool Rescue is an online course designed to help you breathe new life into your homeschool.

This review came at a good time for me, because I plan to spend the summer revamping our homeschool and work towards a new routine that meets the needs of our new family dynamic better.  When I started homeschooling, I had two kids.  I now have four kids, all at varying stages of needing my one-on-one attention, with the youngest truly being one of those "wild child" toddlers I've heard about that needs constant supervision.

Homeschool Rescue is a video-based eCourse that currently has five modules.  These modules will walk you through recovering your homeschool by first recognizing your homeschool's purpose, vision and mission.  You really spend some time reflecting on what is working and what isn't--not just with curriculum, but also with yourself.  There's really a need for self-reflection, and recognizing areas of potential growth, which is an important part of the process to make the most of future modules.  In the later modules, Heather provides more practical advise for time management, organization, curriculum and lesson plans, and motivating students.

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

Each module has 3-5 lessons, and every lesson provides encouragement, advice, resources and even "assignments" to help you revitalize your homeschool.  You can also download the audio or transcript of the lesson, as well as note pages.  Printables designed by Only Passionate Curiosity are pretty, though the boarders are a little colorful if you're a conservative printer.  However, I love having a printable that guides me through each homework assignment, because it keeps my notes cleaner and clearer than if I was just scribbling on scratch paper.

The course was updated (modules 4-5 were added) after I started the course, so instead of a 6 week plan, there is now a 60 day schedule.  It is in calendar format with assignments spread through Monday through Friday.  Some activities are placed under the Weekend Project column so that the family can be involved and work together.  The calendar is just a suggestion though, and if you're working through the course, you are 100% encouraged to work at a pace that is manageable for you.

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue Review

Heather is very encouraging, but from the very beginning, she insists that if you believe you are feeling depressed or anxious, to put the course aside and reach out for help, because you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of your homeschool.  She later stresses that if your student has any learning challenges or other issues that need addressed, to take care of those needs before worrying about the course.  She is genuinely concerned with making sure homeschool families are healthy and happy.

As I was working through the course, I found that Heather encourages flexibility.  When I got to the lesson about Curriculum Pacing Guides, I was completely overwhelmed.  I am not a planner, and even when I do plan, I don't generally execute the plan very well because we change the plan.  Then I found the fine print: (Really Hate Planning? Click here.)  She reassured me that my method of planning, even though vastly different from hers, is good if it is working, and there is no reason I cannot continue doing it.  I felt immediate relief!  This course is designed to help you create a peaceful and productive homeschool environment, but she doesn't insist that her way is the only way.

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue Review

Even when I felt that her method wasn't necessarily "right" for me, it inspired me to look for the right way to do things for my family.  While her specific Pacing Guide suggestion isn't going to work for my personality and our family's rhythm, it sparked ideas for changing up my current method to be a little more streamlined.  Other ideas were almost "aha" moments, that if I actually implement fully going forward, will save me time and frustration, make things run more smoothly, and make things more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Things to Know
Due to the unique nature of the course, the course is sold in sessions.  Sales for the current session will close in June, and the next "live class" will run from June-July.  This allows for more personalized use of the members-only Facebook support group and personalized support via email.
This is a life-time access course, so you will always be able to go back and work through sessions again or redo areas that need tweaked as your situation changes.  Additional bonus materials include various planners and a student accountability packet, so there are plenty of goodies to find within your membership!

Final Thoughts
This course offers just the right amount of friendly encouragement, without sounding unrealistic or too optimistically bubbly and over the top.  Heather knows we are real parents with real struggles, and she's not afraid to address them.  Or rather, she encourages us to tackle them head on . . . while also giving ourselves grace.  Although the course is designed for homeschoolers who have been going awhile and are feeling burnout, I can see it being useful for new homeschoolers as well.  I say this because I know there are new homeschoolers out there that are overwhelmed with just getting started or those who want to throw in the towel all too soon if the first year didn't go as planned.  There are homeschoolers that do not have the support of family and friends and need to find encouragement and advice somewhere else.  If that's you, then yes, I think you can benefit from this course.

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

You can find more information about Homeschool Rescue online or through reading the other crew reviews!

Homeschool Rescue {Only Passionate Curiosity Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Friday, May 12, 2017

Beautiful Feet Books: The Civil War Era

This portion of our American History with Beautiful Feet Books study focuses on Abraham Lincoln.  Consistent with a Charlotte Mason approach, and forming relationships with people, biographies are commonly used for history.  Since this time period is covered through Lincoln's presidency, it does passively cover slavery and the Civil War.  It looks to be covered even more in-depth at the Intermediate and High School levels of Beautiful Feet Books courses, but I decided to go ahead and expand on the time period now with Five in a Row books, because we needed some "extra" stuff in other subjects to round out our studies a little.

Ingrid and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire

This book gave a simple, age appropriate look at Abraham Lincoln's life.  It was full of little stories that make a person human.  The boys liked hearing about the practical jokes.  Exaggerated or not, it did make Lincoln seem like the perfect role model, but overall, the story itself was interesting.  For the most part, we have enjoyed the written aspect of the d'Aulaire biographies.  I can see why these books are popular and frequently used in CM curricula.  They are well written and mostly appropriate for the elementary grades, though they do contain outdated language and stereotypes.  I'll be honest--my boys were upset by some of the illustrations in this book and how it depicted the slaves, particularly one of the pictures at the end.  I had not fully previewed the book (my mistake) and so I wasn't entirely prepared.  They actually questioned why the illustrator would do something like that, and why we would use a book that showed people that didn't look like people.  It really opened our eyes to how some people were viewed during that time period and even when the book itself was published.  Even though the Primary level doesn't specifically dive into these topics, we were still able to discuss racism and stereotypes and how society is still trying to overcome these issues.  {Edit:  Please read in the comments from BFB about the updated version.  I apparently have an old edition.}

Barbara Cary

Although this book is schedule out in the manual, I decided to use it as Elliott's individual reading while we read the other biography and did the FIAR units, because I didn't see the need for two Lincoln biographies being read aloud.  I just had him narrate each reading to me.  It worked well this way, because he's more visual than auditory, and he seems more focused and comprehends more when he reads the material as opposed to me reading aloud.  (I think I just pushed up some of the notebooking activities to coincide completely with the first biography.)  Emory can just read this book later on his own, if he chooses.

Who Owns the Sun?
We rowed this first during the first week of reading Abraham Lincoln.  It's pre-Civl War and introduces slavery and the misguided notion of "owning" someone.  It was a tear-jerker for me, and very emotional for my 7 year old as well.

Follow the Drinking Gourd
We didn't row this book a second time, but we did read it again since it's about the Underground Railroad and fit into the time period.  

They Were Strong and Good
We ended our study with this book, because some of the stories take place during the Civil War.

We have already finished the entire Beautiful Feet Books study, including the very last installment on Buffalo Bill, which I'll be sharing about soon enough.  It was a good year, and overall I enjoyed the study.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Algebra for Breakfast {review}

Algebra for Breakfast review

Do you teach your elementary kids algebra?  It wasn't something I had thought about much, but then we had the opportunity to review a math enrichment program called Algebra for Breakfast.  I was definitely intrigued by the concept, so we thought it would be fun to try it out!

What is Algebra for Breakfast?

Created by teacher Bob Hazen, Algebra for Breakfast is an online math enrichment program that teaches algebraic concepts for 3rd-6th graders, and contains three primary components.

Physical Tools - These include specific math manipulative blocks that are used to demonstrate numerous concepts throughout the course.  Math Dice (two 12-sided dice and three traditional 6-sided dice) are used to play math games that reinforce algebraic thinking.  The Skip Count CD is used as an aid throughout the course.

Online Video Lessons - Most lesson contains a short video of Hazen in a classroom teaching elementary students a concept that is reinforced with the physical tools and worksheets.

Printable Worksheets - The lessons usually contain a worksheet that allows the students to practice and review.  They are short and require minimal writing, and although computation skills are sometimes required, the focus is on algebraic concepts.

For the purpose of this review, I received six months online access, Math Dice, and Skip Count songs.  The blocks used in the course were not provided, but are part of their purchase options.  There are different purchase options depending on your needs, and the subscription is available on a monthly basis.

The course is offered in two levels.   One level is for 3rd/4th Grade and one is for 5th/6th Grade.  According to the website, some content repeats in each program, but the topics and the lesson plans are specifically designed for each age group.

Therefore I placed my 4th grader in the 3rd/4th grade level, and we were excited to get started!  Initially, there were some "prep" activities for me, which was mostly assembling and learning how to play some of the games that will be utilized throughout the course.  There are currently 45 lessons available, with 53 total listed.  The website indicates that content is released incrementally so that you can't rush through it.

How Does it Work?
Algebra for Breakfast is an enrichment program, and the welcome letter I received said it's best used twice a week as a supplement alongside a traditional math program.  It is specifically designed as a scaffolded, incremental program, not an immersion course.  Working slowly through the course allows children time to see the connects between algebra and arithmetic.

Once you log in, you click on the button for the lessons and when the lessons open, you click on the appropriate link.  Within each lesson, you will see one, sometimes two videos.  Usually there is one video to watch, which is almost always Bob Hazen in "teacher mode" with a classroom full of students.  This makes it realistic and shows my kid that other kids his age are doing this too.
Occasionally there is an introductory video giving little more information about what the upcoming lesson entails.  The lesson is usually a concept being taught with specific manipulatives.

As you can see, immediately beneath each video is a button to download the current worksheet.  The Worksheets are a fun reinforcement for the lesson, and we've not found them to be tedious at all.  They require minimal writing, and although some do require basic computation, the focus is on the algebraic concepts.  Not pictured is a "Parent's Corner" button that has the answer key for the worksheets, if necessary.

Sometimes we're told to listen to the skip count CD so the tunes and the skip count patterns are familiar, and later we're working with the skip count songs to visually identify the patterns.  Other times, lessons have us playing Math Dice Games.  My son loves games, so any lesson that involves dice is a fun "lesson" for him.

Since the course is interactive, composed of videos, hands-on activities and worksheets, there is nothing to input into the computer.  This means it does not track progress.  It is the responsibility of the parent, tutor or parent to assess for understanding and mastery.  This is fine with me, because I am pretty involved with their lessons still anyway.

What Do We Think?
I can think of so many uses for this program.  Obviously, it's a great enrichment program for 3rd-6th graders as designed.  I think it could also be used as a summer course for families who don't want to take the whole summer off from learning, or who want to do some "non-traditional" math between finishing one level of their math curriculum and moving to the next.  I could see it being used as a special math class for co-ops or math clubs.  I think it would also work for a review or supplement for older students who need a confidence boost before getting back into Pre-Algebra or Algebra coursework.  Because it utilizes videos, worksheets, manipulatives, and music, it has the ability to engage different types of learners.  Algebra for Breakfast is a versatile program, and I feel confident recommending it as a math enrichment program.

There are some minor things with the website that could make make it easier to use.  I would prefer the student worksheets were all in one PDF file, to make printing easier.  Also, it seems like everything you click on almost always opens in a new tab, which can get cumbersome.  These are convenience issues though, and aren't a deal breaker.  I really like the program as a whole.

We came into this program with a kid who is very good at math conceptually, but isn't particularly enthusiastic about it.  I don't know if it's following a traditional scope and sequence that he doesn't enjoy, or if he just hasn't realized his potential.  Algebra for Breakfast, however, lets him look at "math" in a different way.  He engages with the material and finds it interesting.  We will be keeping this on our rotation until completion.

Algebra for Breakfast

Bob Hazen's Algebra Lessons {Algebra for Breakfast Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer
©2011-2017 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com