Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grade 3 Lightning Lit {review}

Every year I'm blessed to be presented with the opportunity to review curriculum I might not have found or chosen on my own.  This year, we found ourselves reviewing the Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set from Hewitt Homeschooling.  This program features literature, comprehension, grammar and composition.

Lightning Literature Grade 3

I requested this level for Emory.  He is seven and was close to finishing up the 2nd grade at the time we started.  He had completed his language arts program already, and I had yet to choose language arts for his 3rd grade year, so it seemed like a golden opportunity to try out something in hopes of finding a good fit for him.

What Is It?
The third grade curriculum consists of the Student Workbook and Teacher Guide, and requires the use of a poetry anthology and several chapter books.  The full list includes:

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Rickshaw Girl by Matali Perkins
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children edited by Jack Prelutsky

The chapter books are used in the order listed above, and The Random House Book of Poetry is used intermittently for a week at a time throughout the course between the book units.  Books are used anywhere from one week to seven weeks, depending on length.  Luckily I'm creating a personal library all my own, so we already owned several of the books and the poetry anthology.  I noticed that many of the books are listed on multiple living book lists, so at this point I'm comfortable using the books in our home for literature.  (One book is out of print, but looks to be still easily accessible.)

The Teacher's Guide is laid out clearly, with a great introduction as to how to use the program.  There are three main components to this program which are explained thoroughly in the guide, but they include the Reading and Comprehension (reading a passage and answering questions), Grammar and Mechanics (the workbook activities) and Composition (learning to write).  Additional activities, listed as optional, are included as well.  Then, it walks you through each daily activity, from scheduling the reading, possible answers for the comprehension questions, the daily workbook activity and how to help the student with the composition activity each day.  The teacher's guide is not scripted, but it is detailed and thorough, and I like that balance.

The Student Workbook is written to the student with large print and colorful graphics.  I'm not a fan of the font, but I see it often in children's workbooks, and he is not phased by it.  There are only a few exercises on each workbook page, which is ideal for our goal of short lessons.  There are a few activities that some might consider busy work (puzzles, coloring, etc.), but many children enjoy those, so I see why they're included occasionally.

The schedule is easy to follow.  It uses a five day schedule, but activities are only scheduled on the first four days, with the fifth day being an optional day for make-up or following rabbit trails.  This works great for us, because we work on a four day schedule due to co-op.

You can actually view a sizable sample on the website, so I highly recommend checking that out to get a feel for the layout of the program.

How We Used It
My two older children are seven and ten, and I find that the books I'm familiar with are good choices for both of them, so I've chosen to read the literature aloud.  (I've read a few aloud several years ago, but good books are meant to be enjoyed more than once!)  My 3rd grader does the assignments.  He is seven, and because I loosely follow Charlotte Mason homeschooling methods for grammar instruction, he has had no formal grammar outside of how it applies to reading/spelling instruction.  I was a little worried about starting a third grade language arts program, but it went really well!  It ended up being more gentle and scaffolding than I expected, and it starts strong right away, but it doesn't "pick up" where the previous program (2nd grade) left off, or assume prior knowledge.  This is important in the younger years where grammar progress is so varied from one child to the next, so I appreciate this feature.  It turned out, the grammar and mechanics was his favorite part of the curriculum!

My 10 year old has had a couple years of grammar, but has never done sentence diagramming, so I eventually folded him into that as well.  The rest is all review, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I liked the idea of introducing the diagramming in a "two birds, one stone" kind of way since I had the opportunity.  I just had him do the diagramming on a a dry-erase board since we only have one workbook, then they compared their answers.

We found the composition awkward, though.  The author suggests that some children may only write a few sentences, yet some will want to write a page or more, and either is fine.  At the same time, though the lessons are short, there are very specific instructions each day, and he seemed to find this restrictive.  He would get hung up on "the details" and couldn't see the big picture.  Then I thought about how from a Charlotte Mason perspective, based on his age, he's still a beginning narrator and is too young for composition, so I'm not particularly concerned.  We'll just continue to dabble in it slowly and let him progress as he's ready.

Final Thoughts
This is actually a great program as written, but is also very flexible.  It's no secret that we are Charlotte Mason inspired, and even though this program is not (nor does it claim to be) a Charlotte Mason curriculum, I find it can be compatible with our relaxed approach with some simple tweaking.  I can't speak to their lower levels, but for upper elementary, it can work.  It uses real books, and they are mostly of a living book quality.  The daily lessons include clearly separate components (literature, grammar, composition) and those can easily be spread throughout the day so that lessons stay short and the child isn't doing too much of one subject at one time.  The guide and assignments are flexible and easily tweaked for personal needs or preferences.  We prefer narration to strictly comprehension, but the comprehension questions give me an idea for open-ended narration prompts if the child needs a little prodding.  The author also respects the individual needs of the child, knowing that children will be reading and writing at different levels, and she allows room for doing the assignments in a way that works best for your family.  I think this program would especially be useful for families who want to bridge the gap between traditional textbook curriculum and a living book approach, but is should work for those on both sides of the spectrum.  Overall, I am pleased with this curriculum, and intend to continue using it, adapted for our homeschool style, for third grade!

The Crew has been reviewing various products for different grade levels from elementary to high school, so be sure to check out the other reviews!

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Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Nature Study: Mushrooms

I fully admit that I am not strong at nature study, but I am trying!  

Mushroom Nature Study
This post contains affiliate links.

Recently, I came across these little books, Small Adventures Journal: A Little Field Guide for Big Discoveries in Nature on Amazon and bought one for both boys.  They have great little prompts for mapping the neighborhood (we'll do the farm), cloud studies, tree studies, using your senses in nature, etc.  I figured this would be useful for giving us inspiration when I'm low on ideas.  The kids also like something more explicit than "study that tree" so this should be helpful for everyone involved.  Some prompts don't have the need for writing/drawing, but most pages have a space to record results.  A few activities will have to be done in a regular nature journal.

I found an activity called Make a Spore Print when I was browsing through it, and thought the kids would find that interesting, so when I saw mushrooms outside one morning, we got to it!  We had to take our regular nature notebooks for this one.

Mushroom Nature Study
Emory's mushroom in grass.  

We brought a variety of mushrooms inside to do the activity.  We looked at some caps under our pocket microscope.  I'm searching for a new quality microscope right now since they've outgrown their beginner one, but the pocket microscope gave us decent results!

It's really simple, and you can find basic instructions for this online, too.  The book said to use light paper for dark mushrooms and dark paper for light mushrooms.  It didn't specify if it was referring to the caps or the spores, and I've already clarified I'm no outdoorsy girl, so we did both, just in case.  

At the end of the day, we removed the glasses and found that these mushrooms did much better on the lighter paper, so I'd say these are dark spores!  I put clear tape over them to help preserve the print.

The first picture was from a mushroom that was still little bit more open and cone shaped, while the lower picture was from a mushroom that was more flat and rounded at the edges--the boys said it looked like a sombrero!  It's the one pictured under the glass above.

It was a neat, but easy activity, and we'll probably try to do it again with different types of mushrooms when we find some new ones to study.

This post is shared at Homeschool Highlights, hosted by Homeschool Coffee Break!

©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, June 22, 2017

Summer School 2017

It sounds silly to say "summer school" but I guess that's what it is.  We aren't year-round homeschoolers, because we do not maintain a full schedule the way we do in the winter.  I need a break though--just to decompress, and to plan for the next year, and summer is just when we do it.

I think it's important to continue doing educational and purposeful activities, because I fully believe in engaging in ideas and being a lifelong learner.  Also, I don't want the kids to lose math skills, and keeping a light routine makes it easier to jump back into a full routine come fall.  So even though we don't typically use standard curriculum during the summer, we do make sure we're doing review and lighter studies.  We do this during the hottest parts of the day, but keep it light and informal, giving us plenty of time to enjoy summer activities as they arise.

We don't have a specific schedule, but I try to do a few things during the week.

Mathematics:  Both boys do math drills a few times a week, and the occasional 5-A-Day from Math on the Level to keep their skills fresh.

Language Arts:  Emory is the official reviewer for Lightening Literature Grade 3, but I've had Elliott listening in to the readings and doing the sentence diagramming.  Once the review period is over we'll set this aside for next year.

Reading:  They are continuing to have independent reading (and narration) during the day, and I continue to read aloud to them!  Elliott is reading Stuart Little right now, Emory is reading some readers and early chapter books, and I'm reading The Hobbit aloud to them at night.  They're also listening to Peter Pan on audio book.

History/Geography/Science:  We're doing a Wonders of the World project from Home School in the Woods, which is great for a light summer activity.  We were also just assigned a review for a USA Activity Bundle, great for state studies (and summer travels) and the bird cards are great for Emory, who is also still dabbling in his bird study.  Plus we still do nature study.  We work 10-15 minutes a few times a week, and that's it!

Other:  Vacation Bible School is coming up!  It's possible we'll have other review items coming through, but otherwise, we're just enjoying the light schedule and indulging in more interest-based activities.

That's it!  Simple, but it keeps us purposefully learning while still giving us plenty of downtime!  

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Year in Review (2016-2017)

Now that our school year is over, I've been looking back over everything we've done.  It helps for portfolio purposes as well as helps me plan out next year.  By this time last year, I'd already written up this year's "curriculum plans"believe it or not!  Needless to say, plans are for throwing out the window in the homeschool world!  We still had a good year though!

So here's an overview of what we used and loved (and didn't love) for the past year.

2nd Grade

  • Logic of English Foundations - Loved!  He completed another level and his reading exploded.  I'll definitely use this again with the girls.  
  • Lightening Literature Grade 3 - We received this right before the end of the "school" year to review, and I find it CM adaptable.  I'll have more to share later, but definitely feel like we could use this for his 3rd grade LA 
  • Reading - Lots of quality readers and non-fiction (nature/science) books were his preference this year
  • All in One Homeschool Math 2 - I had started this as an interim program while we searched for a good fit for him, but he ended up liking it and I left him there.  He could have moved into 3 but we're keeping it light this summer so he's just reviewing for now.

4th Grade

  • Logic of English Essentials - We found this dry, tedious and time consuming, though maybe the newer edition is better.
  • Easy Grammar 5 - After reviewing another LA program in between, I found this one to be the best fit--short and simple lessons, but quality material.  I'll probably carry this over into 5th grade.
  • Reading - various books for reading practice
  • Teaching Textbooks 5 - His choice, but he ended up not caring for it at all.  He found the lessons long and way too many practice problems considering the type of review they do.  He did well though, so I let him reduce the amount of work as long as his work still showed mastery.  He does not want to use this again.
  • Math on the Level - This is a review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and I'm trying to get into a groove with it since it's summer time, but I know I love the 5-A-Day Online component!  It's fabulous for both boys for summer review!  

I only offer her activities as she desires at this age.  I do not require formal schooling at 4 years old.  These are activities she enjoys and requests, and we definitely go at her speed.  
  • Preschool workbooks - if she's wanting hardcore worksheets, I whip out some basic preschool books.  She works in these at her own pace, and only when she's interested, but gets practice with alphabet, numbers/counting, matching, patterns, etc.
  • Before Five in a Row - My favorite resource!  Lovely living books and simple activities!

Family Subjects

  • Apologia Astronomy - After a review they wanted to continue, but it didn't suit us for the long term.  I really wanted to love it, but one year on one topic was too much for me.  We made it through the first semester, but couldn't muster through after Christmas.  If it were a semester course, we might have been able to finish it with different thoughts.
  • BFB Early American History - I wrote a Final Thoughts post on this already, so I won't go into detail, but I found it CM friendly--living books and the guide was adaptable.  I will likely buy more of their products going forward.  They're on my short list for next year in a couple of subjects.
  • Five in a Row - This wasn't our primary curriculum, but we did a few units to tie into our history studies (and this also got us some of our science during the second semester).
  • Art - They took art at co-op and learned about Benjamin West in our history.  They did art at home through various lessons from FIAR, ARTistic Pursuits, Art for Kids Hub and ArtAchieve (review); we'll carry over the remaining ArtAchieve lessons into Art/Handicrafts first, since they are subscription based.
  • Music - Music Appreciation class and beginning guitar lessons at co-op, Christmas program and exposure to a variety of music through casual listening
  • Poetry - We love Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization though I am inconsistent with it.  I'm trying to figure out a plan for next year so I don't forget it.  It's so quick and easy to do!   
  • Other -AWANA, Jr. Church, co-op, play dates, park days, numerous fun reviews, nature study, farm fun, learning about the elections and voting during an election year, field trips, family reunions and so much more . . . 

I have no doubt that there was learning and growing and maturing that could never be quantified in a blog post!

As for myself - I've been doing better this year about summarizing our monthly activities.  When I first started homeschooling and blogging, I often did Weekly Wrap-Ups, but that just isn't happening anymore.  Instead, I resolved this year to to do monthly summaries.  So here's more details about our year!

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

MarshMedia (review)

MarshMedia, which originally started in 1969, offers health focused videos to schools.  The variety of videos they carry cover topics such as health, nutrition, hygiene, puberty, social-emotional issues and more.  Now owned by Dan and Brenna Witcher, they are currently offering a Homeschool Special that may be of interest to families who want to utilize additional resources to teach or review these topics.


For the purpose of this review, I was given two months free access to their streaming materials. MarshMedia currently offers over 50 of their most popular titles through streaming. This gave me time to watch a variety of videos to determine what would be appropriate for my crew.  My three older kids that would potentially be watching the various videos are 10, 7 and 4 years old.

MarshMedia assures that their videos do not discuss "sex education" even though that terminology is often used interchangeably with puberty and health education.  Their focus is on Health and Puberty.  With this focus, however, there will be references to things like intercourse or drug use, or other sensitive topics.  There are clear descriptions and recommended grade levels for videos, so it shouldn't be hard to determine which videos will be appropriate for your children, but I always recommend that  parents preview materials first to make final judgement calls and be prepared for discussions.

Since my children have a wide age spread and the preschooler was often present, we kept our viewing to some of the basic topics covered in the K-3 or K-5 videos, such as Wash Those Hands and Take Care of Your Skin, Hair and Nails!  They were informative and educational, but not particularly full of new information.  We're pretty much "learn through life" when it comes to health and hygiene, so most of the videos within their age range cover topics they are already know.  The videos average 15 minutes, but they were usually slow paced, and occasionally repetitive, so my two oldest (7 and 10) felt like they got everything they could from the videos before they were over.  My 4 year old enjoyed these types of videos though!

There is also a section of Character Education books, some of which are available to stream, which all feature animal protagonists and explore various challenges like bullying, sibling rivalry, or anger.  I saw one title, Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley, that I recognized from my beloved early elementary curriculum.  This one wasn't available for streaming, but I decided to poke around at some of the others, and these were pleasant.

Final Thoughts
The videos are definitely reminiscent of the health and puberty videos we watched in public elementary and middle school, though some seem to be relatively updated.  There's nothing particularly flashy or sensationalized.  They are simple and straightforward, with the sole purpose of educating.  Other members of the crew are reviewing MarshMedia, so please check out more reviews for additional perspectives.

If you wish to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce the MarshMedia curriculum to your home schooler(s) click here for details.

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

MarshMedia Reviews
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Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Peek into our Homeschool: May 2017

May was kind of a slow month as we transitioned from school mode to relaxed summer mode.  Our school year is officially over on paper, but I still have to finish our portfolios to have them evaluated.

Emory had finished his language arts program back in early April, with nothing particular picked out for next year, so when we had the opportunity to review a 3rd grade language arts program, I jumped on it.  He's trying out Lightening Literature Grade 3 from Hewitt Homeschooling.  I have Elliott listening in to the readings since he's never read the first couple of books.  The grammar concepts are review, but I do have him diagramming sentences with us on a whiteboard, since his grammar program doesn't have him diagramming.

Emory's still enjoying his Burgess Bird study.  We'll continue this through the summer, though maybe not at the recommended schedule, because it's great nature lore.

The kids finished out the AWANA year a couple of weeks ago.  I had one in Puggles, Cubbies, Sparks and T&T this year, and all the big kids finished their books.  Emory is moving up to T&T next year, so I won't have a Sparky for the first time in five years.  I may be a little sad about that.  Next year, it's Puggles, Cubbies, and two in T&T.  Then Eloise will move on and I won't have any more little ones in Puggles.  I am definitely sad about that.

Of course the spring weather has been wonderful!  We've switched over to more outdoor play, nature walks and that kind of fun.

We had a lot of fun reviews post during the month of May, so here they are, in case you've missed any:
ArtAchieve -- really fun, plan to finish the projects
Algebra for Breakfast -- great math enrichment program for 3rd-6th grade
Captain Absolutely -- comic book/graphic novel style book for kids
Kwik Stix -- Heart Eyes Emoji for my favorite art supply for preschoolers
The Typing Coach -- quality program, probably great for an auditory learner
Milton Hershey -- Fascinating book with unit study

I'll be sharing more about  upcoming reviews in our Summer School post, so stay tuned for that.  And lest you think my kids are the only ones doing Summer School . . . I have a Summer Reading List as well!  The biography is completely new for me--it's a review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine website, but I hope to get it on the blog eventually!

©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