Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Snapshots: Piggy Piggy

Looking back for a memorable moment this week was EASY!  We are now the proud owners of this cute little fellow, Arnold Ziffel.  Yes, husband chose the name from the show Green Acres.  If you follow Mom's Heart on social media, you have probably seen this cuteness!

Growing up, I would have never considered myself an outdoorsy/animal person.  I mean, I like dogs and cats well enough, but my husband grew up on a farm and it seems like we're slowly getting back to his roots.  We now have chickens and a pet pig.  I guess it falls under the unique experiences I want my kids to have, and we have more of the time and ability to devote to it since we homeschool.  The kids are asking for ducks, and husband wants other animals too.  I'm not sure if we'll turn towards hobby farming, but for now...

Arnold likes sunbathing, cuddling, shredding paper, and of course, fruit and veggie snacks!







©2011-2018 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, September 21, 2018

Jamestown Settlement Field Trip

Part of our desire as homeschool parents is to offer a variety of experiences for our children.  The husband and I are careful about not doing the same thing every year for vacation.  Sure, we've repeated favorites over the years, but we also look for new experiences.  There's just so much out there - so many museums, so many parks, so many beaches, so many famous attractions and hidden gems - our goal is to just expose them to as much as possible over the years, and hope they find a sense of wonder in the world.  This year, we took our vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Husband loves history, and it was close enough to some beaches and museums that we could do quite a variety of things throughout the week.

The dates of our trip were carefully planned so that we would not miss any co-op days.  I don't like for the kids to miss unnecessarily, and as a teacher, I don't want to inconvenience others.  Initially, even though we intended to spend a day at Colonial Williamsburg, we changed our minds.  Their homeschool days began on our last full day in town, and tickets must be purchased ahead of time.  Since it was the first day, the actual homeschool events were limited, and nothing that especially appealed to us, and we didn't think a full day excursion in 90+ temps would go well with our younger crew.  Thus, we opted to focus on some other historical field trips, which could be done in half days and spread out a little more.


Jamestown
We chose Jamestown Settlement as our first historical field trip of the week.  They also offer special homeschool days during the same time as Colonial Williamsburg, but we took advantage of their regular homeschool discount and combo ticket (with the American Revolution Museum of Yorktown) earlier in the week.

They offer a nice museum, with a neat timeline feature, a film, artifacts and paintings and such.  (No photography allowed.)  Outdoors is a living history museum with three different areas.  We went outdoors thinking we would do that before it got too hot, but by the time we got indoors, the littles were drained, so we just kind of walked through the exhibits quickly.

Powhatan Village
The Powhatan Village showed us what the homes and daily life of the local tribe might have been like, based on archeological evidence and written records from the colonists.  There were only a couple of people milling about, one doing reenactments - making arrowheads, which Emory and Eleanor thought was cool.  It was mostly shaded, so a nice reprieve from the heat.

These were part of a ceremonial circle of carved posts.




There were several reed-covered houses for us to walk through.



Each was full of tools, hides, baskets, natural resources in baskets, and more!  Emory was fascinated.  




Outside, the kids could see other parts of everyday life.  They could grind corn . . .


 Or look at a burnt-out canoe. . .


We learned we should not have worn sandals here, because the the gravel and dirt got into our shoes of course.


Jamestown Settlement Ships 
Walking over to the pier, we could board recreations of the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, the three ships that brought the colonists over.



They each had one or more employees in period costume on board talking about the ships, the journey and the passengers.  It's interesting, if you like history.



You could go under on one of the ships and see even more of what their four month journey would have entailed!



You could sit on their beds, which were full of straw.



Or learn how they steered the ship.  This guy was very knowledgeable and patient with the kids!



We learned how they kept time on the boats too.


The pier offered pretty views too, but I'm not going to lie . . . the 3 year old peering over the edges made me nervous, because she's the type that would just dive over.



This was probably my favorite part, but Eleanor said "Mommy, did you expect me to like walking over a bridge with water where I could fall in?  I liked it [referring to Jamestown Settlement], but I didn't like the boats!"  She didn't like going up the ramp!

James Fort
James Fort is a recreation of the 1610-1614 fort.  We learned about the wattle and daub buildings and about their everyday life.



One of the first buildings we went in was ridiculously warm, with the fire on top of the 90 degree heat.  He was preparing foods as they would have been prepared then.  There was fish, I think some salted meats, maybe a pie?  I can't remember now what he had covered.



The church . . .





 She wanted a picture on the tree stump.  Can you see how hot we were already?  There wasn't much shade here.


Sleeping quarters . . .


And "feed me" faces!


 Momma, take my picture!



This gentleman also did a demonstration with a matchlock musket.  We stood back, because I knew the girls wouldn't like the sound.  



You can hear them in the video "cover your ears!" but here's part of his demonstration.  




From Jamestown Settlement, you could drive over to Historic Jamestowne, which is the site of the original Jamestowne Fort, with archeological discoveries and excavations, but we were already hot and tired and hungry.  (It was already 91 when we left at lunchtime!)

So we finished our morning with lunch at a little pizza and pie place, and enjoyed a quiet picnic in the shade, before going back to the resort to rest and swim.






©2011-2018 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, September 12, 2018

Picta Dicta Latin Review

Roman Roads Media is known for their classical education materials, but the good thing about homeschooling is that you don't have to specifically identify with a certain educational method to utilize a facet of it, and I was intrigued when offered the opportunity to review their Latin program, Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder.  We are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, another philosophy that encourages the study of Latin, though I've held off as we've gotten our footing and reestablished our Charlotte Mason lifestyle.  When this review came up, I thought this year, middle school, would be a good time to introduce Latin, so I was excited to learn more about the program.

Roman Roads Media Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder

Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder is an online Latin program for middle school, high school and college students, with a focus on reading proficiency.  It uses a multi-demensional approach with pictures, audio, definitions, and more, in order for students to gain a deeper understanding of the words.

There are different tracks with different difficulty levels, which allows all students to be both challenged and fulfilled with what is achievable and realistic for their skill and ability level.  Since this is our first foray into Latin, and we're on the young end of the intended grade range (I've been using with my 6th grader) I chose the Easy track. For an older student, especially one using this towards a credit, I would choose the Normal track, because it goes more in-depth.

The program is self-paced, so students can work as fast or slow as is appropriate for them.  We found about 15 minutes every day, or at least every other day, to be appropriate.  Each chapter focuses on one theme, and has three units to learn and review the material in different ways.  Following the first two chapters, cumulative reviews are worked in after every chapter.



Learn is where students learn new words and how they are used in context.  You see the definition, a corresponding picture, and you should be saying the word along with the program.  Choose is where the student can review and "test" their knowledge - you read/listen to the word, then choose the corresponding image from about half a dozen pictures.  Spell is just that, where you must recall the word from the picture, and spell it.


This is a straightforward program, but that makes it predictable and familiar, thus easy to use.  Essentially, this is a great way to learn Latin vocabulary, and understand English by default.  I have never studied Latin but as I sat in with my middle schooler, I'd catch myself going "Oh, I can remember that!" because I was seeing the connections to the English language so easily.  

I feel like this is the type of program that needs to be done a little every day, instead of large chunks once or twice a week.  I noticed a difference in performance if we took a day off or tried to start a new section after a weekend break.  (You can see the drop in stars at the beginning when we took a day off between sessions.)  It is hard to remember the words when you're not practicing or seeing/hearing/speaking them every day.  This is a multi-sensory program in that respect, because we see pictures, read definitions, speak the words, listen to them with the correct pronunciation and learn to spell them.  

For a student who doesn't like written work, an online program may be a good option.  It eliminates extra bookwork and allows the student to "break up" their bookwork by inserting the computer/tablet work - computers allow for audio assistance (pronunciation) that a textbook alone cannot provide, and engages the brain differently.  My middle schooler doesn't love the spelling section, but overall he sees the connection between Latin and English, so that's a good stepping stone to building appreciation.  I feel like this is a good introductory program for casual learning, but could really enhance another full curriculum.

Recently the Homeschool Review Crew also had the opportunity to review Picta Dicta Natural World for younger students, and Fitting Words - a rhetoric program for high schoolers.  I suggest checking out more reviews to get an even broader perspective of what Romans Roads Media has to offer!

Classical Rhetoric and Picta Dicta {Roman Roads Media Reviews}




©2011-2018 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, September 11, 2018

Kingdom Files Book Reviews

As a homeschooling mom, I am always on the lookout for engaging and wholesome books for my kids to read.  Recently, I was given the opportunity to review two books by Barbour Publishing that are part of the Kingdom Files series.  The Kingdom Files are a series of Bible-based biographies for 8-12 year olds written by Matt Koceich.


These books explore the life of a person from the Bible through "files" that show the person's life and how they apply to our lives today. Each book has three files:
  • FACT FILE - This is key information, such their their name, occupation, hometown, and other key facts about their work for the Kingdom
  • ACTION FILE - This is a retelling of the Biblical account of the person's life
  • POWER FILE - The main lessons of the person's life are discussed as we learn how even ancient lessons can apply to our lives today.  These are approximately two pages of discussion along with a memory verse.

Who Was Mary, Mother of God?
Emory (9) chose to read this book first.  This book starts with Mary as a young teenager, learning that she has been chosen by God to give birth to His Son.  We learn how confused and scared she must have been.  We also learn about the time that Mary lived, with small explanations given about things like the census, a young Jewish boy's preparations for a religious life, or interesting facts about different rituals and ceremonies of the time.  The Power Files includes Power-Ups like "God Gives You His Mercy" or "God is Helpful" and these are designed to show us how these truths are applicable to our own lives.


Who Was Jonah?
In this book, we learn about Jonah, the prophet who was to preach to the people of Nineveh.  We learn how Jonah was asked to step out of his comfort zone in order to obey God, but tried to choose his own path.  Of course we read about the time Jonah spent in the belly of a fish and his praying, and of his time when he finally reaches Nineveh.  Again, the author explains little tidbits of information, like the meaning of tempest or casting lots.  These are things that some children may just not know, so I like that small explanations are worked into the texts.  The Power-Up section of this book gives us lessons on obedience, not being afraid, prayer, and God's grace, among other lessons.


What did we think?
These, and the other stories in the series, are familiar stories to children who have grown up in church and learning the Bible, but familiar stories also make comforting and easy independent reads.  For children new to church and the Bible's teachings, these are a good introduction to some of the most well-known figures in Biblical history.  I also think, because of the target age range, the language and sentence structure is a bit simplistic.  Again, this makes it an easier read.  Emory could easily read through a chapter or more in a sitting.  It is almost conversational, but to me it felt a bit choppy and awkward as a read aloud.  That being said, the books are informational and interesting, and I like how they focus on real people, doing real things, living real lives for God.  I appreciate how Bible verses and references are included for support.  I also really appreciate how the author clarifies when the Bible does and doesn't specify something; he states simply "The Bible doesn't say..." and then goes on to what we do know directly from the Bible.  If you use the Power-Up sections as Bible studies, these books can go a long way for family or small group devotions.

Currently there are six books, and the others focus on Jesus, Daniel, David and Esther.  To find out more about what other crew members thought of the books about Jonah and Mary, be sure to read more reviews!

Kingdom Files {Barbour Publishing Reviews}









©2011-2018 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

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Saturday Snapshots: Vacation & Field Trips

We've been busy vacationing and field tripping.  We had a fun week in and around Williamsburg, Virginia.  I plan to share more about those trips later, but for my Saturday Snapshot, I wanted to share a moment.  A moment where all four kids were enjoying something together, where they were all smiling for me, and where the scenery was lovely.






©2011-2018 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, September 5, 2018

GrammarPlanet Review

GrammarPlanet is a new, online program for grammar, punctuation and usage.  It is for students ages 10+ who want to learn grammar, or even brush-up on their grammar skills.  It is brought to you by the same people who produce Analytical Grammar.  I have seen Analytical Grammar recommended for use by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, so I thought an online version of their program might be a good way to approach grammar, especially for my child who prefers to do as much as possible online.

GrammarPlannet


Sign-up was easy enough, though I don't think it should have been required to give a student's birth date.  I wouldn't have minded giving an age, though.  To begin a lesson, you are instructed to print a study guide to read as you watch the video lesson.  The study guides are typically about one page, and cover the same material that is in the video, but it is not verbatim.  It has examples and a review of the process order for identifying parts of speech.  This is a portion of Unit 5's study guide.

Grammar Planet Study Guide


The instructor is friendly and speaks clearly.  Often in instructional videos you get dramatic and cheesy, or monotone, but she is neither.  It's just her face; she is not writing on a whiteboard or pointing or shuffling papers.  Only occasionally do we see hand motions.  So it's not particularly distracting, but I would have been fine with just the audio since we're supposed to follow along with the study guide.

The format of the program is straightforward.  Once the student gets through the video, they are given practice questions.  The practice screen is very clean and uncluttered, so again, there are no distractions.

Grammar Planet

The practice questions start with short sentences, and as you move through the lesson, the sentences get longer, so that more examples of the parts of speech being studied are included.  The user interface is pretty simple.  When the user click a word, a box pops up wth the parts of speech that have been taught, and the student clicks on the appropriate label.

When they are finished labeling the sentence, they click on the green submit button.  Each sentence is automatically graded, so you know when you have made a mistake.  Seeing an error sometimes helps the learner realize they are making careless errors, or helps to clear up a misunderstanding, so I like that it shows how you are doing as you.


The practice section is responsive, so the student will answer anywhere from 10-25 questions, depending on how well they are doing.  Students who grasp the material will move more quickly through the lesson.  If they miss too many questions, the unit will become "locked" and the parent/teacher has two options.  They can reset the unit so the student can start over, or they can unlock it, so they can move forward.  The parent/teacher is encouraged to look over their student's progress and talk to the student, to determine which approach would be best.  The only problem I have with resetting the lessons is that it repeats the sentences, so it can be hard to determine when true mastery is achieved.

However, as students do pass and move into the next unit, they will have review opportunities built in, because the concepts are taught sequentially and build upon one another.  The format of the program means you're continuously reviewing previously learned content.  

One thing I couldn't figure out was the inconsistency in the grading between the practice questions and the tests.  If you miss one element of a practice problem, such as forgetting to label an article, while still labeling the other 10 elements of the sentence correctly, the entire problem is marked wrong.  This, understandably, counts against the student in the adaptive format of this program.  In a test however, they give partial credit, so you can get 4/5 questions wrong but enough partial credit to pass.  It seems the practice is more rigorous, but once you get to the tests, they are easier to pass.


They also don't specify the threshold for passing.  I know my son scored a 74% when we were first trying to figure out the program.  I don't consider this mastery under normal circumstances, but it said he passed.  The only thing I can do at that point is reset a unit if I don't like the score.  This can seem a little unfair to the student after they've been told they "passed" according to the program's standards, but there is no way for me to set the standard for passing in the parent dashboard.

The parent dashboard allows you to look over your child's most recent practice session, and to print results (which is great for portfolio reviews) but there isn't a lot of control over the program itself.  You can reset or unlock units, but that is all I have found at this point.

I still think the program and user interface is easy to use.  The grammar itself is thorough and intense, however, and students should be prepared to really pay attention to the lessons, go over the study guides, and put in real effort.  I like the concept of the program and I think now that we've slowed down to the recommended pace (15 minutes every other day), Elliott is coming around to it.  Doing more than this was frustrating because it led to careless errors or made the subject take too long as the adaptive features lengthened the time spent.  This is a mastery-based program, and the idea is to let the material "marinate" over time.  It is a slow-and-steady wins the race kind of program, which I like.

If you are interested in learning more about the program I suggest you try it out!  There is an ad-supported version that is free, or you can pay a one time fee of $39 for an ad-free account.  Your student can take as much time as they need, because your subscription will not expire!

To read more GrammarPlanet reviews from the Crew, be sure to click the banner below!




*Grammar Program Online {GrammarPlannet Reviews}

©2011-2018 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, September 4, 2018

Reading Eggs & Mathseeds Workbooks! {review}

Most homeschoolers with younger children have probably heard of Reading Eggs.  It is an online, beginning reading program that has now been enjoyed by all three of my older children during the learning to read phase.  Over the years, Reading Eggs has expanded their program to include Reading Eggspress for reading comprehension, Reading Eggs Jr. for preschoolers, and Mathseeds for early elementary math skills.  Recently, they have also created high quality workbooks to accompany their reading and math programs, and we had the opportunity to review 200 Essential Math Skills for Kindergarten alongside the online component.



I have been using the math workbook and Mathseeds program with my third child, who is just starting Kindergarten and is five years old.  Admittedly, we are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, and don't do much in the way of formal lessons before age six, but she is very precocious and eager, and has regularly asked for school books like her brothers.  Mathseeds is a fun, educational compromise, and she was so excited to get "her" math book!


Initially, we received a PDF version of the workbook with our Reading Eggs subscription while we waited for the physical workbook to arrive.  I chose to print in black and white, but the workbook is colorful.  We previously had a subscription to the Reading Eggs suite, so she had already completed several Mathseeds lessons.  When she received access again, she eagerly jumped right in where she had left off.  I printed pages for the lessons where she was at, and she worked on a lesson a little at a time, either just before or after the online lesson.

Lesson 23 - Shapes and Lines

Once the workbook arrived, she wanted to go back and work through the beginning lessons.  I was fine with that, because we're in no rush at 5 years old, and it only provides reinforcement and boosts confidence when they complete "easy" material.

The activities throughout the book are simple and predictable, but varied enough to keep interest.  Sometimes the student is tracing, or coloring, then drawing numbers and words, or shapes and lines.  They may finish a picture by drawing two bunny ears in the lesson on number two.  They might circle the correct answer, or finish a pattern, or match groups of items to the correct number.  There is minimal writing, which I appreciate.  I think some math programs focus so much on filling in the blanks, that kids aren't able to focus on the actual concepts.

 Yes, she decided the 1 was a person who needed a head and smile!


The workbook consists of 50 lessons, carefully sequenced to cover numbers, operations, patterns, geometry and measurement.  Each lesson has 4 pages, with 2-3 activities per page.  At the end of each lesson is a yellow box where you can track your online progress.



The Year Planner doesn't actually give you a day-to-day lesson plan, but shows you how the workbook lines up with the online lessons and quizzes.  You will also find completion certificates for each section (similar to the certificates for each map online), and a Fun Spot, which is just a fun little activity page.  There is also a four page cumulative review of lessons 1-25 halfway through the book, and lessons 26-50 at the end of the book.  Not having an explicit schedule means you can pace the program in a way that works for your family's schedule and your child's needs.



The online lessons cover the same material, but in the typical online format.  Kids are clicking, dragging and matching up correct answers.  They receive golden acorns, which they can use to buy items for their avatar or their treehouse.

Match the shape to the shadow.

We're still catching up in the workbook to where she is online, at her request and at her pace, so we're still figuring out our lessons and pacing for the rest of the year.  However, when using the online lessons too, I almost think it best to do the online lesson first as an introduction, because there are usually videos that "teach" the concepts.  They can't move ahead online (you can see the individual sections are locked until they complete it) and may get bored with the online component if they've already finished the workbook sections.  If you do the online lesson, then switch to the workbook, you can pick and choose from the different activities based on what they need to practice.

The main thing the workbook doesn't really include is a lot of integrated hands-on experiences.  I fully believe that young children need concrete work with math to gain a better understanding of how numbers can be manipulated.  There are a few pages in the back of the book that are to be cut out and pasted in the lessons (mostly sorting exercises), and the front of the book includes a section called Learning Activities.  These activities are things like making numbers from play dough, using berries to work on operations, or sorting leaves or twigs by size.  While the activities are more general, and are not aligned to specific lessons, it is easy to take these ideas and apply them to the lessons.  Or you may choose to practice math skills through games, cooking, and other practical everyday activities.

That being said, you can find activities for every lesson on the individual Homeschool Worksheets that are included with a Mathseeds subscription.  The workbook pages and the online activity sheets are very similar, but the online version contains activity suggestions for each lesson.


Having them consolidated into one PDF might be a nice feature for those that have the workbook and don't want to open every online worksheet individually.

What did we think?
I prefer physical workbooks over printing worksheets, so it is a nice option for people like me.  I think this is a fairly standard workbook, so its correlation to Mathseeds is really the only unique feature.  If you love Reading Eggs and Mathseeds, and don't like printing worksheets either, then these workbooks are a good option.  As this is my third time through Kindergarten, I know it should be a low-key, informal year, so I don't need a teacher's manual with a ton of "lessons" in it, but I do think including hands-on activities and real life math is key to successfully understand math.  The workbook is colorful and engaging, and Eleanor likes it.  She also enjoys Mathseeds, so alternating between the two, along with focusing on practical math, is a good approach for us.

Eleanor is also using the Reading Eggs portion more casually.  We actually use another program for reading instruction, and this is a fun supplement for us.  In a previous Reading Eggs Review, I shared more about the reading and what it covers.

The Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing all levels of the Reading  (K-5) and Math (K-2) workbooks, along with some who are just focusing on the online suite, so feel free to check out the reviews to get a better look at everything they offer!

Special Offers!


4 free Weeks of Reading Eggs: https://readingeggs.com/crew10/

10% off when purchasing workbooks with the code: WK10QTBH0KE





Online Reading Eggs Suite {Reading Eggs Reviews}





©2011-2018 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