Saturday, September 30, 2017

Field Trip: Fernbank Museum of Natural History

While we were in Georgia, my husband thought the Fernbank Museum of Natural History would be a different field trip opportunity from what we've done in the past, and the kids were excited about it.

You get a fun welcome, as this is the first thing you really see when you enter Giants of the Mesozoic.  The kids liked the "flying" ones up above us too.  I got a good full picture, but I didn't realize there was someone else's kid in the background.  Husband also got some fun panoramic pictures.

Husband got one of all of us, which is nice since I'm usually the one taking the pictures!

On the other side of the room, there was a picture op, so of course they wanted to try it.

After that, we made our way through the museum.  There are a few levels, and we just went downstairs and worked our way up.

The World of Shells was interesting.  You could see shells of all shapes, sizes and colors from around the world.

Outside of the shell room, was the Star Gallery.  It wasn't "much to look at" so to speak, and a couple of my kids walked back through without noticing the stars on the ceiling!

Reflections of Culture - We'd just started our World Geography study with Let's Go Geography, so it was nice to see so many different pieces of clothing, jewelry, uniforms and such.  There were touch screens with questions, something like "If you wear a beard, what does it mean?" with three choices.  Then as you choose each answer, it would explain what it means in different cultures.  A lot of fun stuff, I really liked this exhibit.

Eleanor loved all the jewelry and wanted pictures with it.  Her favorite item in the room came from the display on "wealth" or something like that.  It was pair of silver, sparkly Jimmy Choo heels.  I was too busy laughing to think about a picture.

Another really fun exhibit was Sensing Nature, which was full of activities that teach how and why we see, feel, hear and interpret things the way we do.

I'm not sure there's anything more fun than bubbles!

They played wth acoustics - Daddy was on the other end of the room talking to them in a normal voice and they were having a conversation!

 Visual effects - trying to touch a spring that doesn't exist.

In the weather area, they had the weather channel playing, you could "touch lightning" and learn about electricity.

Plus, you could do a weather segment on the green screen, and there was information about how this works.

Examining things up close . . . I think this was in the De Soto exhibit.

Another photo op with little Eloise this time!

We did the Walk through Time in Georgia, which was interesting, but dark and most areas were hard to get good pictures.  Towards the end, we came up on a lower room we could see from upstairs in the Sensing Nature exhibit.

The Dinosaur Gallery . . .

In the Conveyed in Clay exhibit, we got to look at a lot of pots, but honestly - by this point, little ones were getting restless.

So we headed outside to the nature trails to get back in the fresh air!

Had to snap a photo with daddy and the kids, though they decided to be silly.

More silly faces, because you know . . . we can't be serious for more than two seconds.

Waiting on Daddy and Eloise with the stroller . . . we came around a different way with stairs and beat them back.

But one more of the pretty girl!  She held out strong, even though we went straight through her nap time.

And we let them do the photo booth, because how fun!  Daddy had to hold Eloise up and she was barely in a couple, but she loved doing something like that with the big kids.

They had a couple of special play/learning areas, but they had designated age ranges.  However, one of my kids was too old for the indoor one, and he was the only one old enough for the outdoor one (it was built for tweens), so we skipped them both.  I think they are more appropriate for school field trips than families, in that respect.

We were also informed that the Special Exhibits were closed because they were between exhibits, so really we didn't even see the "full" museum.  Yet, there was still a lot to see and do.  It was really nice, though pricey, but a nice field trip over all.  Their website also has printable educational activities and and such, but since this was a Field Trip on Family Vacation, we skipped them.

We went on a weekday, late morning.  A field trip was just leaving, but other than that, it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves.  They didn't even have employees or volunteers floating around as far as I recall.

Another thing I want to point out, is that they do offer Homeschool discounts at all times.  The information is available on their website, and I contacted about out-of-state homeschoolers, and they answered yes!  So they are homeschool friendly, which is a huge plus in my book!

Our other big field trip during this trip to Atlanta was the Georgia Aquarium.

©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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Captain Bayley's Heir audio drama review

As always, I'm happy to review another great production from Heirloom Audio Productions.  Their most recent release is Captain Bayley's Heir, a story the Old West.  This is an audio adventure, an adaption of the novel by G.A. Henty.  We love these productions for many reasons.  They take quality books and turn them into theatrical productions with voice actors, sound effects and musical scores. It is a superb listening experience for the mind!  We listened to this particular story on a long car trip, and it is simply amazing how the noisy chatter of kids dwindled down to barely an occasional whisper as we would put the story back on after a break.

Captain Bayley's Heir

What's the Story?
Frank is an 18 year old boy from England who was falsely accused of a crime, and with the idea that no one believed or supported his innocence, he runs away.  Frank heads to America, in hopes of a fresh start.

After Frank's quick thinking saves a boat on the Mississippi, he's encouraged to head west and look for gold in California.  In Omaha, he meets some cowboys who give him practical advise and invite him to travel with their caravan.  After a few months of peaceful riding, we reach another "exciting" point in the story. The caravan comes across a row of wagons, the travelers apparently massacred by Indians.  Frank is momentarily dumbstruck, but then an "Indian Attack" ensues.  I imagine that in GA Henty's world, the story of the savage Indian and white man's victory was acceptable and applauded.  However, one of the wise cowboys does remind young Frank that white man has done this to the natives, and perhaps brought it upon himself by taking the Indians homes, hunting ground and way of life.  All of this is brought up in the study guide, however, which encourages the student to really think deeply about the issues at hand.

While Frank's family at home must deal with his running away, and other shocking news that they stumble upon, Frank is making progress in California as a prospector.  As more action takes place throughout the story, Frank realizes that it is not his hard work or even Captain Bayley's support he needs, but that he needs God's grace.

Study Guide and Live the Adventure Website
For every book they have turned into an audio adventure, Heirloom Audio Productions has created a thorough study guide.  The full study guide for Captain Bayley's Heir is a 38 page PDF with everything you need for a literary study of the audio adventure.  The main parts of the study guide can be found "online" under the bonus content in your Live the Adventure library.

Listening Well:  Questions about the characters and plot, where the answers can be ascertained just from listening to the story.  If using the website version, you can answer the questions through an interactive quiz and get immediate results.

Thinking Further:  these questions require more critical thinking, as they ask you to dig deeper into the themes of the story, interpret the meaning of what someone says or the actions they take; to draw conclusions and discuss consequences.  There is no answer guide, so parents should be familiar and prepared.

Defining Words:  vocabulary; using the online version, the definition appears when you hover over the word.  Otherwise the student must look up the definition

Bible Study: Three studies that are titled God's Grace, Becoming a Christian and Honoring Your Parents.  There is brief introductory material, but the majority of each study is in outline form, with multiple supporting verses to read and discuss.

The downloadable study guide also has illustrations as well as Expand Your Learning boxes, with interesting information pertaining to the time period.  These "fun facts" so to speak, are what help take this study guide to the next level.  It just adds another dimension and helps put the story into perspective.

Additionally, the Live the Adventure Club has a multitude of resources available, including articles, devotionals, an old time radio vault, and an active community forum.  

While I have always advised caution for sensitive children, I believe Captain Bayley's Heir has a less intense feel overall than its predecessors.  Not because the content has less depth or meaning, but simply because the Old West and the Gold Rush are often seen as more adventuresome and exciting to children than some of the other historical time periods that have been covered, which can feel much more intense to discuss.  All of the audio productions are excellent resources for history and literature, and you can read all of our reviews:

Under Drake's Flag
In Freedom's Cause
Wth Lee in Virginia
The Dragon and the Raven
Beric the Briton
The Cat of Bubastes
In the Reign of Terror

Heirloom Audio Productions

Captain Bayley's Heir {Heirloom Audio Productions 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.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Georgia Aquarium field trip

One day while we were in the car, our 8 year old said he wanted to go to an aquarium.  We were coming up on our trip to Atlanta, so we decided to take the kids to the Georgia Aquarium as one of our field trips while we were there.

The very first thing we did was the Sea Lion show.  We were right by the entrance as it was starting, so it was great timing.  All of their sea lions were rescued, and unable to be returned, and their stories were shared with us.  We weren't allowed to take pictures during the show, however, they mentioned the sea lion noses in the gift shop . . . I just wish they hadn't been crammed into a tiny little package.  She loved it though!  She had a good time during the show, and was even answering the questions (like the difference between a sea lion and a walrus) when they were interacting with the audience.

After the show, we made our way through the aquarium.  One of the things Eleanor wanted to see was the dolphins.  We had talked about dolphins when reading My Blue Boat in her preschool work, so the was a hit!

The penguins were fun, and the three bigger kids could crawl through a tunnel and go "inside" the exhibit.  I've seen this elsewhere too.  Elliott had to hold Eleanor up so she could see.  If I'd realized, I would have gone with them to hold her up, but she still enjoyed it.

I love how there are multiple viewing areas at all different levels, so the kids don't have to feel like they're always behind the tall people, or in someone's way.  Some of them are through tunnels and in little "hideaway" areas, so they feel like a kids-only adventure.  It also helped that we went mid-week, early in the day, and since it was early September, it was field trip free!  This meant overall, it was not crowded at all and my kids had quite a bit of uninterrupted viewing access.

Most everything was labeled, but I liked how they had large cards when you entered each main exhibit, so that you could identify the different species.

I don't remember what this thing was called . . . but Emory loved it and insisted I get a picture of it!

Eleanor was so excited she could touch a sea star!  I had to help her reach inside, so no good pictures of the kids, but the touch tank was a hit.

The boys liked the Japanese spider crab as well!

Eloise loved this viewing area, because it was large, colorful and active.  The aquarium was very stroller friendly for the most part.  (Except during the show when we had to park it - but even that was very well done - they gave us a tag to retrieve it, instead of leaving it unattended!)

This area also had the interactive touch screen so you could look up all the fish in this exhibit.

It's a little dark because of the lighting in some areas, but she had to take a picture with "Mr. Grouper" from the show Bubble Guppies.

In addition to the dolphins, they also had beluga whales (hard to get good pictures) and some other animals we hadn't seen at the other aquariums we've been to, so it was nice to visit something a little different.  It was still pricey though, even with their "discount" price, and they don't offer a standing homeschool discount like some other attractions.  (They do have a couple homeschool days, which IS great, but not particularly helpful for non-locals.)  I think we would have had to visit every show to feel like we got our money's worth, but husband is a "walk through and be done" type visitor, and the toddler was tired, so we only went through once.  Regardless, it was a nice place, and though it's not something I would do every time we visit Atlanta, the kids did enjoy it!

©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.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Let's Go Geography {review}

Every year the Schoolhouse Review Crew has introduced my family to curriculum we might not find on our own, but that turns out to be a good fit.  Let's Go Geography is one of those programs, and I'm excited to share it wth you!  This is a homeschool geography curriculum written by Carol Henderson, that will have three years of K-4 material.  Each year will cover two US regions and 26 countries, so over three years it will give a broad overview of the world.  The crew recently reviewed Year 1, and I was happy to try this out with my kids.  Although it's a K-4 program, I used it primarily with my 3rd and 5th graders, and my 4 year old tagged along occasionally, so I'll state up front, the grade range can be flexible!

Let's Go Geography

How Does it Work?
Once you log in, you will find information for assembling a Travel Journal, to store your work for the year, and/or a Passport.  To begin the lessons, you simply click the one you want and it opens in a new tab.  You can download as a PDF, but internet links are embedded, so you will need internet access.  All of the content for a country is included, but you will want to look ahead at the craft to make sure you have the necessary supplies.  The lessons are written in a specific order, and grouped by continent.  You'll receive a reminder email each week for your next lesson.  However, you have access to all of the lessons and can complete them in any order.  The icons next to the lesson show varying levels of progress, with the checkmark appearing after you mark the lesson complete.  I really appreciate this feature!

Each lesson follows the same basic "itinerary," though the individual activities differ slightly.

Color the Map - We color the country on a continent map, identify the capitol, and discuss things like bordering countries and bodies of water.  I love that questions are often asked in relation to the equator and cardinal directions.  None of the extra information doesn't need to be memorized, but it's good for exposure for the younger kids, and of course a good mapping exercise for the older kids.

Color, Cut and Glue the Flag - You can print one page with two flags, or a classroom set.  These are partially colored flags, that the student is to complete, and then put into their passport or onto the Flags of . . . (continent) pages, so you can visually see where the flags are flying around the world.  We use the continent page that goes into the Travel Journal.

The family page of flags includes the two small flags in the middle of the page with informational text all around it.  I only need the two flags this year, but it's a bit wasteful to print a full page every time.  Another option would be to have a separate file in the membership area with all of the flags together, as it would only be about two pages.  This would be the most "print friendly" for my family anyway.  

Enjoy the Music - An external link to listen to the national anthem, and sometimes another video of traditional songs/dances.  My kids loved hearing the different languages, and I appreciated when the lyrics are dubbed in the original language and/or translated to English.

Explore and Go Sightseeing - This section usually has some basic facts about the country and the culture, and then links are provided to short videos of villages, markets, animals, tourist sites or other interesting topics.  You will also find a link to read more online, as well as library call numbers if you wish to check out relevant books.  Finally, this section includes (optional) instructions for the country's notebooking page.  My boys are older, but for younger students, a second page with less lines and an area for drawing might be a good idea too - particularly if being used in a co-op setting with mixed-ages or younger children.

So far the videos have all been on YouTube.  We've not seen anything problematic, though I always suggest parental guidance when following external links, just as a precaution!

Color or Make a Craft - This section typically has a coloring page and instructions with photographs of a craft to make.  For instance, when we did China, there was a coloring page of a Chinese Dragon, as well as a craft of a Chinese Dragon.  The coloring pages are great for my 4 year old when she wants to participate, and many of the crafts are great for the Pre-K - 2nd grade range, or for older kids who do still enjoy crafting.

How We've Used It
Each weekend, I go through our next country and print any pages we need.  I have built a good personal library, so I pull out any related literature and reference books (if there is more interest, then we can check out more books from the library) and put them in our weekly book basket.

There are several ways you can do the lesson through the week.  The five activities I listed above could each be done over five days, for younger children.  My boys are older, so we can do the lesson in one day, though sometimes we stretch it into two days.  First, we work through the mapping, flag activity, music and sightseeing tour.  There are a few pictures that represent the country which could be printed for the travel journals, but I usually just show these to the kids and we discuss them.  Then I have them do the Notebooking page, which is a great form of narration.  If we choose to do the craft, we usually do it later in the week.  If we have books to read, I spread them out throughout the week as part of our read-aloud material.

Carol Henderson has suggested that we don't have to feel obligated to do all of the activities, that the idea is to expose the children to various aspects of the culture.  The variety of activities is so that there is something suitable for all ages.  I've found that we can basically do everything since my kids are older. We aren't really a "craft" family as a whole, so some of the crafts were omitted, or I try to find a suitable alternative that is in the spirit of the original activity.  (For China, we replaced the Chinese Dragon craft with an online drawing tutorial of a Chinese Dragon for our travel journals.)  Other crafts have been more our speed, almost handicraft in nature.  We did a placement weaving for Cambodia and made a version of the game Tapatan for The Philippines.  We had fun playing several rounds of this game!

The Schedule/Itinerary 
As mentioned, each year will cover two regions of the US and a few countries from each continent.  All countries from one continent are grouped together, so we are studying one general area at a time.  I decided to start with Asia, because one of the boys had recently requested to study China.  After looking through a few of the lessons and the reviews, I realized it would be best to do all of the Asian countries, then New Zealand, so that we could then follow it with the appropriate review before moving to another section.  I did peek at the review for Asia/Australia, and it reviews basic information - mapping the countries and matching flags, as well as a review of general facts, but new information is included as well.  There is also reference to something learned in a previous review, but it too was covered in enough depth that I don't feel like skipping around will cause any major issues.

Let's Go Geography

Final Thoughts
I love that so much information is included, but since it's all about exposure and appreciation for other cultures, rather than 'drill and kill' work, it doesn't feel overwhelming at all!  I love that this is a stand-alone geography curriculum, but that it could easily accompany other curriculum and homeschooling styles.  We are relaxed, Charlotte Mason inspired homeschoolers, and you could easily start with a living book for each country, and use this curriculum to enhance the learning.  I really appreciate that everything you need is included, though it's easy to expand if their is interest.

There were some small issues related to printing and paper usage that could be tweaked, but otherwise I haven't run into any real problems.  I think it's very easy to use this curriculum within the intended grade range, and slightly outside of it.  It's K-4, but I've used with Pre-K, 3rd and 5th, and I think the activities are all doable for this age range.  All of the kids like the videos.  The animal videos are a hit with everyone, while my 4 year old daughter also loves the dances and elaborate costumes and jewlery, and my boys love videos about cuisine.  The activities are easily tweaked.  Young children can dictate their thoughts for the note booking page, while older students could further research a topic of interest.  It's also very multi-sensory, with videos, music and crafts available for different learning preferences.

I had already purchased a different geography curriculum for this school year, and while it's lovely too, I have decided to set it aside for a year and use Let's Go Geography!  This program better suited to my wide age range this year, it is so easy to implement, and it is just plain fun!

How to Purchase
A few of the countries are available individually for purchase, but you can buy just the first semester ($14.99), buy the full year one semester at a time ($12.99/semester), or the full year at once ($21.99).  There is currently a 25% off coupon on the website as well.  All prices and coupons are current, but may change.  To have everything brought together for me--enough videos, printable materials and craft ideas for a simple introduction to so many countries around the world--and organized so nicely, I'm very happy with the curriculum!

Let’s Go Geography {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.