Sunday, September 25, 2011

Letter of The Week: Letter D - Dogs

I have fallen behind in doing separate pages for Little M's Letter of the Week!  Here are the activities he completed for the Letter D and the theme Dogs:

We used The Poky Little Puppy as our spine book and completed a lapbook from Homeschool Share.  See the carousel at the end of this post for the other titles we used in this unit.

Here is the cover of the lapbook.  On the cover is our doggie craft.  I cut out the shape of a terrier and Little M glued on colored paper for the ears, eyes, nose, and tongue.  Then he glued pieces of yarn on for the hair.

We made a minibook of words that start with the Letter D, counted pictures of dogs, colored ducks, and put the life cycle of a duck in the right order. Yes I know dogs was the theme not ducks BUT these were so cute that I couldn't resist.

Next we looked at a map of the United States and colored in all the states where our friends and family live.  We used our five senses to describes things around the house, and counted all the animals and flowers in The Poky Little Puppy.


 We also used some non-fiction books about dogs to talk about what dogs need to stay healthy and the proper way to take care of your dog.  Then we enjoyed some games outside with our dog Hooch.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up: Microscopes and Frogs

Another successful week this week.  I don't want to jinx us but we are off to a great start this school year!  We attended Critter Story Time at the Cohanzick Zoo over the weekend.  One of the moms from our homeschool group was the story leader and read a story about zoo animals then helped the kids make an animal craft.  The kids had a blast.

Here they are making their craft.

Checking out the Servals

A cool stump they found along way

Finished turtles they made at Critter Story Time

The highlight of Ms. Q's week was using the microscope for the first time.  She actually already owned the microscope.  I think she got is as a Christmas gift last year.  But it was exciting to use it as part of school!  We read about the different parts of a microscope and how they work last week in Science.  This week she learned about paper and cloth fibers and got to look at some under the microscope.  Listening to her excitement and the amount of times she yelled "MOM, MOM, you have to look at this!"  you would have thought she had just discovered tiny people under her microscope lens!  But it was fun to watch her explore and learn.

She usually balks at having to do her writing assignments but this week she was able to write about her favorite thing she did this summer.  She of course wrote about her birthday and our trip to the Wildwood boardwalk.

Problem solving has always been an issue with her in that it's so much easier to ask mom to give you the answer then to struggle to figure it out on your own.  She is continuing to use her AIMS Solve It! problem solving activity book and each week she builds more and more confidence in her ability to figure things out on her own.

Little M learned about the letter F this week.  We used Frog Went a Courtin' as the spine.

He learned about the life cycle of a frog, made the letter F from three forks, listened to the song Froggie Went a Courtin' on YouTube, and made a paper bag puppet of a frog.  I got a little behind on the Letter of the Week page I wanted to keep up.  Now that I'm finished the planning for this term and school is getting into a flow I hope to get that page up to date with the letters D-F.

Frog puppet "scaring" Dad
Little M is working his way through How to Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons.  He is doing very, very well.  Over the last two weeks he has really been trying hard and we are so proud of him.  The last two days he has sounded out "real words" and is really excited to do more.

To wrap up the week, we had a great playgroup on Thursday and an enjoyable trip to the library on Friday.  Here's to hoping our good flow will continue for the rest of the school year!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: AIMS Education- Solve It! 3rd Grade


I was seriously on the fence about whether I wanted to review AIMS Education Foundation- Solve It! for 3rd Grade.  I should know better than to judge a book by it's cover. My first impression was that this product was going to be a boring workbook for math that Ms. Q would balk over adding in.  We were both pleasantly surprised!

Solve It! 3rd Grade isn't a workbook at all really.  The book itself is a softcover manual that includes 29 hands-on student activities for problem-solving and teacher instructional pages (240 pages all together).  The activities are grouped into nine different problem-solving strategies and a grid is included to show you which activities follow which strategies. 

From the website:

Solve It! 3rd: Problem-Solving Strategies addresses:
•    use manipulatives,
•    write a number sentence,
•    draw out the problem,
•    guess and check,
•    organize the information,
•    look for patterns,
•    use logical thinking,
•    work backwards, and
•    wish for an easier problem


You can see a sample of some of the activities in Solve It! 3rd Grade HERE.

We have added Solve It! 3rd Grade to Ms. Q's Friday math assignment and used four of the 29 activities so far.  We will be using activities from the book every Friday and plan on finishing the book by the end of the year.  The activities are grouped in regard to the type of problem-solving strategy that will be used but as the teacher you have complete freedom to choose the order of the activities.  Although Ms. Q was a little perturbed that the book stated it was for 3rd grade and she is in 4th grade this year she had some difficulty working out the problems.  Problem-solving is not one of her strong suits.  She is really good at math drill.  She is not so good with word problems when the type of math problem needed to find the answer is not so clear cut.  She really enjoyed the activities.  Even though sometimes it was difficult for her to find the solution, the problems weren't so difficult that she felt frustrated or wanted to give up.  Ultimately she was successful in finding the solutions with a little bit of help and this gave her more confidence for the next week's activity.

Solve It! 3rd Grade is written to be used in a classroom setting and therefore needs to be adapted somewhat for use in a homeschool.  The instructions for most of the activities are for a group of students.  We, of course, only have one student so she works independently.  This hasn't been a problem in any of the activities we have done so far.  Some of the manipulatives we don't have and just don't have the budget to get right now.  In most cases we found substitute items (like buttons instead of bear counters) or made what we needed (like paper shapes printed from the computer instead of wooden shape blocks).  There is also alot of teacher jargon in the instructions and some procedural information that was irrelevant to me. Each activity includes 1-2 pages of teacher information but I really skimmed most of this information looking closely only at the learning goals and the procedure.

However, I love that it comes with a CD-ROM containing all the student pages for easy home printing.  I dread having to schlep all the kids to Staples and try to wrangle them while I make a few photocopies.  The Key Question and Learning Goal pages make it easy for Ms. Q to know what the point of the activity is and the Connecting Learning pages are great for following up and discussing the activity when she finishes.

All in all I would say that I am really glad that we were able to review AIMS Education - Solve It! 3rd Grade.  It isn't a product that I would have chosen for our homeschool but I will be taking another look at the AIMS catalog and online store to see what other products might be hidden gems just waiting for us to discover them.

AIMS - Solve It! 3rd Grade is $24.95.  The Solve It! series has activity books for K-1 through Grade 5.  You can get all five books bundled together for $99.95 (that's like getting one for free - see I know a little math).  The AIMS Education Foundation specializes in Math and Science and is dedicated to engaging students through hands-on activities.  They have so many products to choose from!

To see what other TOS Reviewers have to say about Solve It! 3rd Grade and other AIMS Education Foundation products, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.



Disclosure: As a member of the 2011-2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew, I was provided this product for free in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was given and this review reflects my honest opinion.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Before Five In A Row

When  we started homeschooling Ms. Q about two and half years ago I had no idea what we were going to do.  I didn't know anyone that homeschooled and was totally overwhelmed by all the curriculum choices I found while Googling.  The shining light for us was Five In A RowWe used FIAR Volumes 1 and 2 and loved it.  So when TOS asked if we would like to review Before Five In A Row I seriously did a little dance of joy.


We were not disappointed in Before Five In A Row.  Before FIAR is for ages 2-4 and Little M was so excited to get a "real school book" just for him.  The book includes 24 literature mini-units in the same style of those awesome FIAR books.  Each unit covers topics like math, history, science, character, art, and music in an informal and conversational way just perfect for the pre-school set.  Most units include a Bible suggestion but if you are secular like us, or of another faith, you can just skip these.  The book titles include some of the most popular and best known children's stories of all time and many are award winning selections.  Two of the book selections are Christian-centered titles, but again, if these don't interest you, you can easily skip them and still have 22 other books to choose from.  Before FIAR also includes a large collection of learning readiness activities to prepare your young child for learning and for building some happy childhood memories.  Activities like playing with balloons, cutting and pasting, and activities for bath time just to name a few, will keep your child entertained and primed for learning.

For this review, we used the units Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, We're Going On A Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.  Almost all the titles used in Before FIAR we either already own or are available through our local library system.  Some titles were a little more difficult to locate and/or are currently out of print, but a thorough internet book search proved fruitful and not all that expensive.

Little M's favorite book was Blueberries for Sal.  I think it might have been because this one came from the library and the other two came from our book basket.  (Note to self: remove selected titles from book basket a few weeks before using for "school" in order to create greater interest.)  He really enjoyed counting blueberries by putting them into a bucket, and his mouth, just like Sal.  It was also great fun to talk about the different animals in the story and he was able to classify each one on Ms. Q's animal classification wall.  We talked about bears and our last trip to the zoo when we asked the zoo keeper about bear hibernation.  He and I also made up a fun song about blueberries that has been stuck in my head for days.  All of these activities were suggestions offered to discuss in the Blueberries for Sal mini-unit in Before Five In A Row.

How I think "school" should look
Before Five In A Row is $35.00 and can be purchased at Rainbow Resource Center.  There you can also purchase a literature package that includes all of the currently in print books used in Before Five In A Row.  If your child likes hands on activities and is up to the challenge of creating a lapbook, then a Before Five In A Row Fold & Learn might be of interest.  These are available HERE and are priced at $9.00 each.  We haven't yet used the Fold & Learns but they look like a whole lot of fun.  They are downloadable and are therefore reusable (just like the guide and literature books) for all your children.  You can't beat that.

To see what other TOS Reviewers have to say about Before Five In A Row, check out the The TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.


Disclosure: As a member of the 2011-2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew, I was provided this product for free in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was given and this review reflects my honest opinion.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up: Back to (Home)School!

That's right, we are officially back to school work this week.  We had such a great summer I'm a little sad to see it go.  But we are riding that wave of new school excitement.  Nothing like the feeling of new books, new pencils, and new notebooks.  Ms. Q misses school clothes shopping but I promised to take her to get a few things when the weather actually cools off.  Who needs sweaters and jeans when it's still 75 degrees out?

Here is what we've been up to this week:

Monday Ms. Q started 4th grade and Little M started Pre-school.  I'm working on some pages to post at the top of my blog with all the curriculum materials we are using this year.  Just putting on some final touches and some links and they will be ready to go.  We went out for lunch on Monday (well the drivethru anyway) to celebrate being back to school.

Ms. Q was really disappointed that she was not able to start French this week.  She's been looking forward to learning French all summer.  Our computer has been acting up and the Rosetta Stone software kept making the computer freeze.  Hopefully everything will be a go for French for next week.  She was able to start her unit on South America for Geography.  She's not totally excited for this but I have some pretty cools things planned that she doesn't know about yet.

Little M is continuing with the Letter of the Week that we started last year.  This week we did a review of the letters A-E and a literature unit using Blueberries for Sal.  He enjoyed counting and eating blueberries and he made up this cute little song: "Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk, I love blueberries. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk [insert person's name] loves blueberries."  It's been stuck in my head for days.  He also made some new play dough.

Friday we explored a new (to us) trail in the area for our nature walk.  This week's topic was milkweed.  We were not successful in our hunt for milkweed but we did see some other interesting plants, a funny little salamander, and we all enjoyed our walk.  We will be following the Outdoor Hour Challenges as best we can again this year.

I would say that we can call our first week back a success.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

MathBlaster Giveaway Winner!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!

Chemmy - you are the winner!!  Congratulations!!

That was so much fun.  I hope I can have another giveaway sometime soon.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Favorite Recipe: Magic Milkshakes

I know, I know it's a little late in the season to post a recipe for milkshakes.  And do you really need a recipe for milkshakes?

Well, I love milkshakes and so do my kiddos.  We make them all year round.  BUT we don't have ice cream available all the time and I hate to think how many calories and grams of fat I'm sucking up that straw.  Here's where the need for a recipe comes in.  During a recent internet search I stumbled upon a great website called Hillbilly Housewife.

The Hillbilly Housewife has all sorts of great low cost cooking from scratch ideas.  Among them a wonderful recipe for milkshakes that doesn't use ice cream!  The recipe uses ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.  You can find the recipe HERE - just scroll down to find it.  It's between the Chai Tea recipe and the Instant Cafe Au Lait.  MMM...

Oh and here's some pictures of the most recent Magic Milkshakes we've made.



We also made chocolate banana, chocolate peanut butter, and vanilla.  All were thick, creamy, and delicious!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: Big IQ Kids


Big IQ Kids is one of those finds that makes homeschooling sooo much easier.   Big IQ Kids is an online program designed to help kids in grades K-12 master skills in spelling, vocabulary, math, and US geography.  Your child works on one lesson a day in each subject area (about 10-15 minutes each) and the lessons progress as mastery is achieved.  It's totally customizable so you can tailor the program to partner with your curriculum.  You can also get progress reports on each lesson to see how well your child is mastering the material as well as any trouble area.  For each lesson completed the student earns a coin to spend in the game arcade, an area of the website with "fun" games and a student created avatar.

We have been enjoying the last of our summer break and although Ms. Q has been using Big IQ Kids almost everyday and trying to learn how it works, she is really excited to start using Big IQ Kids as part of her school day.  When I told her that I scheduled it into her day she literally jumped up and down!  She really likes the way the characters talk and give her directions and she loves earning game coins.  The Spelling Bee is her favorite.  She is not totally sold on the drill aspect of the math program but after I lowered the number of problems she had to complete in each lesson she was better (and complained less).

Big IQ Kids has both a free play and a premium membership option.  The spelling and vocabulary programs are all free.  We used the free spelling program last year to help practice Ms. Q's spelling words and we were both really excited to try out the premium member options.  The spelling Jr., math and geography programs are part of the premium membership.

The free spelling and vocabulary programs are great but if you want to be able to track your student's progress, have lessons that progress with mastery, and give your child access to the game arcade and buddy then the premium membership is for you.  The pricing starts at $7.99 for single months or $39.99 for a yearly membership.  You can read more about pricing options HERE.  In my opinion, Big IQ Kids is a little pricey.  BUT, if you are willing to prioritize Big IQ Kids in your curriculum budget you will not be disappointed.

If you would like to read what others are saying about Big IQ Kids, please visit The Old Schoolhouse  Homeschool Crew Blog.



Disclosure: As a member of the 2011-2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew, I was provided this product for free in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was given and this review reflects my honest opinion.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Field Trip: Leaming's Run Gardens

The kids and I recently took a field trip to Leaming's Run Gardens in Cape May Courthouse New Jersey.  I have never been there before but the website looked pretty interesting and the price was right, so off we went.

The website states "A visit to Leaming's Run Gardens is a delightful relaxing walk along winding paths where at every turn is yet another celebration of nature's beauty."  And it really was.  We followed winding paths through wooded areas only to emerge back into the sunlight and be surrounded by a beautiful garden.

Butterflies and hummingbirds were everywhere.

A sign stated that this garden was "owned" by a hummingbird named Emily.  She's in the picture but you really can't see her.  The kids were thrilled with her and sat and watched her fly from flower to flower for quite a long time.

Another sign stated "please walk on the grass" so Little M did.  He also walked on the trees.

Nestled among the gardens is a replica colonial homestead.  Here the kids explored what a colonial bed nook looked like as well as the other living areas and the outhouse.

Outside the house was a kitchen garden, a barn, and chicken coops, complete with chickens, a turkey, and a goat.

The graves of Thomas Leaming, his wife and young daughter are also on the property.

Little M and Ms. Q by far loved the bamboo forest the best.  At first Ms. Q didn't believe me that it was real bamboo.  She thought they were poles in the ground!  She was eventually convinced and the two enjoyed themselves hiding behind and spinning around them.

Baby C loved looking for frogs in the pond.

We finished up our trip with a picnic lunch.  It was a wonderful place to visit and one that changes all the time making each visit unique.  Now that we know about this little gem we are sure to return.


Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop