Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

We received Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2 Spanish Courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages to review. Middlebury Interactive Languages has four languages available: Spanish, French, Chinese and German. The courses are designed in age groups: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 (with a secondary course in fluency). If you're unsure of what level your child would be in, they have demos available. The first level is available for each grade group and that should always be your starting point if you're just beginning to learn the language you choose. Just a note, the German course is the only course that doesn't offer a K-2 level.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Since I have a preschooler and Kindergartner, we started with the K-2 course. We have worked through the first few lessons with great success! We focus on one lesson per week, and repeat each section daily. We also printed off homemade flash cards of each word and phrase and each lesson is on a color-coded ring. Both kids have worked on each lesson together (my preschooler is basically at a Kindergarten level in every subject) and it helps that they can work on their language studies by practicing together.

We live in an area where Spanish is commonly spoken. Actually, we more accurately live in a melting pot of cultures and languages, which is amazing. On our street alone we have over eight bi-lingual families that speak English and a native language from their home country. On the flip-side, our neighbors, my kids' best friends, have a Puerto Rican father whose mother only speaks Spanish, and his daughters do not understand her because he never taught them his native language. We suggested trying out Middlebury Interactive Languages, but in the meantime I shared our flash cards with them and printed off some worksheets and my kids and I have helped them practice. It has been wonderful working with a bigger group of kids.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Proper pronunciation is harder for Bean, who has struggled with speech in the past. We have created phonogram rocks to help with this. We use rocks instead of flash cards for things like this because Munchkin does so much better with objects. The rocks have the letters painted on and there are multiple rocks depending on the accent marks. Once a week we go through the rocks and work on each sound and pair them together to form words she recognizes. During the rest of the week, they are able to play with them however they want. Playing with the rocks is a wonderful way for them to familiarize themselves with the letters and create words to sound out, even if they aren't real words.

Spanish 1 started with the very basics of Spanish language - Hello, Goodbye, My name is... From there it branched out to incorporate several different areas. We have incorporated our Spanish studies into most of our daily lessons. For math, we use half English and half Spanish word problems (the numbers are Spanish), Bean's spelling words are written in both English and Spanish. She practices to write and read each word. We don't take tests though. We move on when she's ready for a new batch of words. We also have several English/Spanish reading books (top half of page is in English, Spanish translation is at the bottom). We also use workbooks we found at our local bookstore and worksheets we printed out from online. Those we work on together, but my kids primarily use Middlebury Interactive Languages independently on their tablets.

There are 12 units in the K-2 course. Each course has 6 lessons. Each lesson covers different areas, like an introduction to the unit, reviews, exploration, practice, speaking labs, coloring pages, warm-ups, stories, and more. The stories are spoken in Spanish and you listen along and pick up key words from the text that are found in the unit. The units are:

Unit 1: Greetings
Unit 2: Numbers
Unit 3: Family
Unit 4: Colors
Unit 5: School
Unit 6: Review
Unit 7: Body
Unit 8: Animals
Unit 9: Calendar
Unit 10: Food
Unit 11: Descriptions
Unit 12: Review

Each of Middlebury Interactive Languages courses are designed to be completed in one semester (18 weeks/90 days). The joy of online curriculum is that your child can work at their own pace, though the purchase plan limits you to one semester (6 months), with the option to buy an additional semester if needed. There are two purchase plans available, basically with or without a teacher aid. Independent Study costs $119 per semester and with a Teacher costs an additional $175 for a total of $294. If you have multiple students, the price goes up. 

We are enjoying using Middlebury Interactive Languages and as far as online learning goes, the app is really great to use. The kids are able to navigate the site mostly on their own and as the teacher I'm able to keep track of their lessons and grades. The lessons progress at an easy pace for young kids to follow, and each lesson builds on the last. 

Middlebury Interactive Languages is a perfect online program for homeschooling families, especially those trying to teach a foreign language for the first time. Foreign languages can be challenging to teach if you are completely unfamiliar with the language. Workbooks may not be enough to immerse yourself in the language, which is why an online or digital curriculum can compliment your language study. 

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 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Heroes of History Review

YWAM Publishing Review

We received Meriwether Lewis: Off the Edge of the Map and Unit Study Curriculum Guide Meriwether Lewis from the Heroes of History series created by YWAM Publishing to review. Both are written by Janet and Geoff Benge, who are also the authors of several other biography books in the Heroes of History series. They combine historical facts into an easy to read literary journey for kids of all ages. Although the suggested reading age for a child reading independently is 10+, we used these books with our kids and I read the chapters and created activities tailored to their grade.

The Heroes of History series is an exciting learning experience that brings kids along on a historical adventure. Each book in the series is based on a real person and true events from their life. In Off the Edge of the Map, readers go on an expedition with Meriwether Lewis across America, alongside William Clark. They were commissioned by President Jefferson to take this journey and left in May of 1804, beginning at the Mississippi River near St. Louis, and ending in September 1806. At the time, no one had completed such a daring exploration of the western states. Their goal was to find a land route the Pacific Ocean. In those days, the United States were divided into groups, including Louisiana (purchased in 1803), Spanish Territory, and what remained of the native regions.

We began reading Off the Edge of the Map near the Merrimack River, a substitute for the Mississippi River, to set the scene. We brought along paper boats (we made them waterproof by folding the paper into a boat, then unfolding it, laminating it, and refolding it - pre-folding it made it so much easier to put back together), small "explorer" figures, a nature journal, map, field guide, and binoculars. We observed nature, tested out the boat on the river, drew berries and flowers in our nature journals then looked them up, marked the map where we started and ended, and went on a walk along the river bank. After our exploration, we sat in a sunny, grassy patch and the kids ate lunch while I began reading. 

Off the Edge of the Map actually starts out by introducing Meriwether's early life and leading up to the journey west. We covered the first few short chapters in one sitting, but after that we read two chapters a day during circle time. After we read we marked spots on the map where they stopped, and we made lists of who they met or what animals and plants they found. I asked them questions about what they learned and found interesting. 

The History Unit Study Curriculum Guide covers Student Explorations, Social Studies, Key Quotes, Community Links, Related Themes to Explore, Bibliography of Related Resources, and Culminating Events. This teacher's guide covers various activities, including: creative writing, drama, movie critiquing, reading comprehension, essay writing, and history and geography concepts. As a teacher or homeschooling parent, you can pick and choose which activities will work best for your child(ren) based on their learning styles. They can also be used individually or as a group. The unit study guide is also designed to be used by children in different grades or abilities. 

We started each reading with a quote, which we wrote on the white board and left up for the day. While we are working on unit studies, we focus on vocabulary words that are commonly used in the passages, such are courage, brave, leadership, etc. These words are used in our daily writing journals (those split notebooks with a drawing portion on top and a written portion below) to inspire a picture and story. Our unit study learning center (or display corner, as it's called in the book) featured a color coded map, where we marked their journey as we read, paper canoes and types of housing (made out of natural materials), Safari Ltd. animal figures (bears, coyotes, beavers, wolves, dogs, eagles, etc), a flower press, plant samples, a compass, timeline, nature journal, field guide, leather and fur (both faux) clothes cut outs that were used to dress up fabric dolls, Lewis and Clark themed flash cards that we found online that featured coins, food, locations, animals, and maps, a picture of the United States flag at the time, printed images of their journals, and books on Lewis and Clark. Most of these were suggested in the unit study guide, and we gathered up what we had available. Our learning center was the main hub for all their hands-on learning needs. They were able to explore together or by themselves, set up small worlds using the figures and natural materials, flip through the flash cards and name what they were, or sit in their reading corner and go through the books. 

We didn't use all of the chapter questions, so we came up with some of our own. Whenever a question asked about the meaning behind a word, they answered what they thought it meant before we looked it up in their student dictionary. We keep a dictionary nearby so they can learn how to look up words. I edited the questions to word them in ways I knew my children would understand. Then I opened the floor for their own questions. Sometimes it would be about Seaman, Lewis' dog, other times it might be "where is the Missouri River?" We then do some research to answer their questions. I allow them to use an iPad so they can ask their questions out loud, instead of having to type them, since they are still working on typing and spelling. There are four comprehensive questions for each chapter. The first covers a vocabulary word from the chapter, the second asks a factual question, the third gauges the students level of comprehension and the fourth is an open-ended question about their opinion or interpretation of the text. 

Our creative writing sessions always include some sort of added art, whether it be a drawing, painting, or craft. If it's a craft, we add it to our exploration table, otherwise it's drawn in their writing journal. We didn't use the essay questions for writing activities, but we did use some of them for oral conversations. Our main focus was the hands-on activities. We created a family crest for Meriwether Lewis' family using a printed blank family crest coloring page and both kids designed them. I showed them examples of family crests (including those for our own family) and explained what different symbols could mean. Bean is really into Knights currently, so this activity was right up her alley. Her crest featured a musket, a canoe and Seaman, Lewis' dog. Munchkin's featured a pine cone and acorn, because he's four and that's what he was more interested in. We created paper canoes that we brought down to our local river and let them sail away (not the laminated ones) while observing them, talking about how the water flow would have determined how fast they moved on the river and how dangerous it would be to paddle around rocky or waterfall areas. We also enjoyed walks through forests, around lakes, and along our local river. 

YWAM Publishing Review
We loved reading Off the Edge of the Map. It was a really interesting way to learn about history and it's perfect for homeschooling families who focus on themes or literature-based learning. We enjoyed researching the places they visited, the people they met, and the animals and plants they found along the way. I would definitely grab the curriculum guide with the book if you plan to use it for a unit study, otherwise I think children who prefer to read and work independently would enjoy reading the book and writing summaries of each chapter. Since there are so many books in the series, it would be really easy to create a history timeline using the books and featuring a historical person for each stop in the timeline of American history. YWAM Publishing offers the books individually, in boxed sets of 5, or the complete collection of 26 books. They also have map books, a Then and Now series, and a biography series for young learners. We will definitely continue using these books for future history lessons! 

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

We received an Individual Membership from Super Teacher Worksheets to review. This is a teacher resource that can be used by public or private school teachers and homeschoolers. It's even an awesome resource for parents and caregivers as well, since there are so many worksheets, activities and games covered on this website. We have been using it for a couple weeks now and I wish I had known about it sooner!

The price of an individual, unlimited access membership is $19.95 per year. Considering how often we use the worksheets and taking into account how much we have already paid for individual worksheets from other websites, this is a more affordable option for us. There are over 10,000 printable worksheets, activities and games available for school teachers and homeschoolers. The worksheets are recommended for elementary aged students (K-5), but there are worksheets available for preschoolers and some older students as well. They add new worksheets every week and they are working on adding more for grades 6-8.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Homeschoolers and teachers will be able to find nearly every subject they teach covered by Super Teacher Worksheets. The subjects include: Math, Reading and Writing, Phonics, Grammar, Social Studies, Science and Spelling. There is also a seasonal section that includes worksheets for tons of different holidays, including Halloween and Christmas, and even less known holidays like Dr Seuss Day and Pi Day. So if you are fond of themed mini units about holidays, you are sure to find plenty of worksheets and activities to fill your needs!

The type of worksheets that can be found go beyond traditional worksheets. There are card games, phonics mini-books (a personal favorite of ours), math mystery pictures, dice games, cut-and-glue activities, research projects, memory match games, word wheels, reading comprehension stories and question sheets, book report templates, maps, and more. You can even make your own worksheets for math, spelling, calendars, flash cards, quizzes, and word puzzles using their worksheet generators. Being a member, you can save those worksheets and use them for future activities too!

While Super Teacher Worksheets does not have a huge selection of foreign language worksheets, there are some available for basic French and Spanish. And since we are currently learning Spanish using an online program, it has been so helpful to have these worksheets on hand for writing and reading lessons. There are flash cards, vocabulary worksheets and reading passages available as well. To switch from English to Spanish or French, select the "Lang" option under the description of the worksheet, but keep in mind that it's not available for every worksheet.

Bean working on her "Letter B" worksheets. There are so many worksheets that appeal to her. She loves whenever a worksheet allows her to color as an answer, but she also loves writing in answers! 

But her absolute favorite are the cut and paste spelling worksheets. We love activities that work on fine motor skills, especially when they are fun and educational!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review
One of our favorite printable worksheets is the alphabet mini-book series! We printed off the first 7 for the first month (Bean was already using the first book when I took the pictures). It covers all the vowels (including short and long vowels), as well as all the consonants. I used my rotary cutter to speed up the mini-book-making process and it seriously only took a couple minutes to put them all together. 

Then we stapled them and ta-da! They look awesome! Bean really enjoys using them to practice reading and we are currently considering coloring them in. But for now we are working on mastering them before moving on to the next batch of 7 mini-books!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Another favorite type of worksheet are the math ones! Bean prefers worksheets, while Munchkin prefers hands-on math lessons. We were able to finally have him complete a couple math worksheets when I introduced him to the basic addition coloring sheets! It's like paint-by-number with math problems and it's a really fun way to combine math and art!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Bean has been obsessed with learning to tell time ever since she was given a wooden toy clock. When I showed her Super Teacher Worksheets collection of "telling time" worksheets, she was over the moon. We have been finding fun ways to combine telling time with storytelling and reading comprehension problems. Like, for instance, if we are working on quarters, I might ask: "Luke went to the bakery at 10:00 am to pick up a loaf of bread. He was having brunch at 11:00 am. He sat in traffic for 45 minutes. How early was he?" And then she would draw the hour and minute hands on a laminated clock or write in the time. There are a bunch of worksheets that already feature a specific time as the answer, so we try to use those and just create stories to go along with them. She loves the problem solving aspect of it!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

We have only started to use the reading comprehension worksheets, but already they are enjoying them. Typically we use them for oral lessons or I write in their answer, since we aren't up to writing complete sentences yet.

The science section has a ton of great worksheets that we use for mini unit-studies. They cover animals, anatomy, life cycles, electricity, matter, simple machines, space, weather and more! You can print out a weather chart to track the weather outside. You can go on a solar system scavenger hunt. You can even create and play a simple machines board game.

There are just so many worksheets available to choose from. I doubt we will ever get to them all (because there are over 10,000 worksheets!), but I love having that many options! We highly recommend Super Teacher Worksheets to teachers and homeschoolers, because not only is it affordable, but it is a seriously wonderful resource to have on hand!

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Super Teacher Worksheets Review

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Horizons Kindergarten Math Set Review

Alpha Omega Review
We received the Horizons Kindergarten Math Set from Alpha Omega Publications to review. This is a full curriculum for homeschooled Kindergarten children. The set comes with two student workbooks and a teacher's guide. You'll also want to have basic math tools and materials on hand for many of the lessons.

The scope and sequence of this curriculum is: counting 1-100, number recognition, number writing, number value, number after, number between, place value, addition, subtraction, money, time, calendar, number theory, colors, shapes, size, comparison, direction and position, and coordination.

The lessons are teacher-led. The teacher's guide is straight-forward and allows for you to add your own teaching style to fit the learning needs of your child. Inside the teacher's guide you'll find daily lesson plans and answer keys, along with teaching tips and activities. There will also be a materials and supplies list which make it easy to gather materials to use for the lesson. I find the lessons to be multi-sensory friendly, which is helpful when teaching children with different learning styles. I typically lead math lessons by setting up the worksheets with any physical materials needed and verbally go over the lesson and the solution. Then you can either work with the student or let them work independently. We're very hands-on, so problem solving is a group effort and I love watching my kids work together.

One feature that we love about this curriculum is that the workbooks are full of color! You rarely see colored illustrations in a math workbook (or perhaps we have just been buying all the wrong ones). It's the small things that count and since my children have always reacted better to work pages that are colorful, it made a huge difference. Both of my children enjoy math, so while my daughter worked on the problems, I set up similar activities for my son to work on. 

Here are a few examples of the worksheets from the first few lessons. Some pages simply ask you to count the objects, not to write them, but Bean decided to write them anyway.

There are plenty of opportunities to practice verbally counting and practice writing numbers.

Counting specific objects instead of dots on a chart makes it so much easier for the kids to keep track of where they are while counting. They remember where they left off if they pause while counting, and are more confident while counting out loud. They love declaring that there are "five ducks!" or "eight fish!"

Here's a comparison of the student workbook to the teacher's guide. What isn't covered in the student's workbook are the hands-on lessons, which are thoroughly explained in the teacher's guide. The student workbook only covers the written portions of the lessons.

One unexpected resource that we didn't originally intend to use is the box that the curriculum comes in. The box is large enough to fit another set of the books inside and seemed like a bit of a waste of space. So when we opened it up, the books were moved to our math shelf and the box sat next to the indoor recycle bin for a couple days. After using the books for a few days, we realized there were a handful of materials that we always reached for when we started up the math lessons each morning. So I filled up the box and all of our extra materials fit inside! Inside the box is: dry-erase boards and markers, laminated number boards (1-10, 1-20, 1-100, and skip-counting 2, 5, 10, etc.), shape blocks, pattern cards, plastic counters, play money, ruler and measuring tape, clock, math magnets and small magnet board, calendar, compass, and flash cards. We also have a set of dominoes that doesn't fit in the box, but that we use often.

You could absolutely use this curriculum without physical materials, but we really like to follow up worksheets with hands-on activities. Plus, this curriculum is primarily used by my daughter (she does all the written parts), but my son still sits with us and follows along with the lesson. He is technically a year behind, so he doesn't usually use worksheets. But he loves hands-on math. So we set up the same sort of problem for him, but instead of using the worksheet, he uses the physical materials. As a kinesthetic learner, this is how he learns best. My daughter on the other hand favors visual and auditory learning, so she prefers worksheets and spoken lessons.

We loved using Horizons curriculum for math. I look forward to continuing to use their curriculum for this upcoming year! Both of my kids enjoyed using this curriculum. Bean was overjoyed to have a "huge math book!" to use for lessons and is always excited to sit down and start on the next lesson. We would highly recommend Horizons math curriculum to other homeschooling families. We all find the lessons to be engaging and fun!

The Horizons Kindergarten Math Set is available for $71.95.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
We received Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers from Funtastic Unit Studies to review. This curriculum was designed by Susan Kilbride, a homeschooler, with other homeschoolers in mind, but can still be used in a classroom or even as after-school activities for public school children. While it's not a full science curriculum, it can absolutely be used for stand-alone unit studies or used by teachers for learning activities to supplement their own curriculum. 
An awesome benefit of this science curriculum is that it utilizes multi-sensory styles of learning and mixes hands-on lessons with vocal or written lessons. The units build on each other, so we started at the beginning. We have been 
There are 20 chapters in this book, covering material from the five senses and dinosaurs, to microscopes and simple machines. They are grouped into two categories, which is based on an age group, either 4-7 or 8-13. My children fall in the first category, so we primarily focused on those activities. The idea is to start at the beginning of the book and work your way through the activities. However, considering our children won't be ready for chapters 11-20 for some time, we have only looked through them to see what we have to look forward to. Homeschooling families with a broader age range of children (ex: 4, 6, 8 and 10) will likely not run into the same problem. I expect that they would either figure out a way to make each chapter useful to all their children, or simply run two science units.

At the start of each unit you'll find a materials list which is based off of the needs of an individual student. So if you are teaching more, you'll need to multiply the list appropriately. Most of the items are common and can be found around the house, bought at a local store (grocery, hardware, etc.) or at a library. Each chapter has roughly 4-7 parts, Some parts feature multiple activities, while others consist of single comprehensive activities, tests, and crafts. The tests can be found at the end of the 8-13 units to check if the student understands the unit and is ready to move on. Each of the units are designed to build on the unit that came before it.

Typically, a unit of this size can be completed in a week or two, depending on the pace of your child. You may even want to create a month long unit for younger children and supplement the unit with your own activities. Or you could simply work on one part per week, depending on how often you teach science in your homeschool. We typically work on science Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with breaks in-between to read books on the subject. Monday is the introductory day, Wednesday is the hands-on learning and exploration activities day, and Friday is the "experiment" day. We visit the library on Saturdays to pick out books for the next week.

Both kids loved the first unit on the Five Senses. We followed the activities in the book and ditched our regular science routine to feature one of the five senses each day. In addition to the activities in the book, we created a few of our own, for the kids to work on while I set up the activities for the day. Like coloring with scented markers, reading books on the five senses or books that feature one of the five senses (touchy-feely books, scratch and sniff books, etc.), and listening to music.

We also set up exploration tables that we left up all week that focused on the current theme. So for example, we started at the beginning of the book with the five senses. We used a couple small bowls we had and filled them with items that represented the five senses. For scent, we used our homemade scent bottles, which are old spice containers, cleaned out and painted, and filled with different herbs and flowers and oils, so that they can test them out and guess what the scent it. For the touch basket we used fabrics with different textures, wood toys that are smooth and bumpy, shells of various shapes, and texture blocks that have different patterns on each side. For taste we used dried fruits, nuts, and small snacks, like veggie sticks. The five types of tastes are: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory. We added something for each of these tastes. We kept them in baggies, but they were allowed to snack on them and match them to the five taste words of what they think they are. For sight we added small binoculars, a magnifying glass, a hand mirror and a kaleidoscope. For sound we created sound eggs, using old Easter eggs and filled them with different objects, like a bouncy ball, dried beans, bells, beads, sand, sticks, etc. There are a dozen of them and they try to line them up from the quietest egg to the loudest egg, or vice versa.

The Human Body unit (the second unit) was Bean's favorite unit so far. She especially enjoyed creating a human body out of construction paper over the course of  the week. Typically unit studies would last two weeks, but because it's the summer time and we have multiple mini-vacations, we try to keep our schedule open. For this lesson, we took some of the activities outside. We used our local basketball court to trace our bodies and draw features and different parts of the body. Munchkin used printables of the human body that he colored in. Our exploration table featured a human body model, skeleton toys, books, and paper and pencils to draw parts of the human body.

Now we are on the prehistoric unit which focuses on dinosaurs and has so far been a huge hit with Munchkin. He loved making the bagel Stegosaurus (although he munched on it the whole way through). We used our dinosaur toys to sort herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. Our exploration table had multiple sets of dinosaur flash cards, books, a small sand garden with dinosaur skulls and bones ("fossils") to excavate, and a sensory bin small world with grass, rocks and dinosaur figures to play with. We also used the Magic School Bus In the Time of the Dinosaurs book with a timeline to explore the different time periods. We watched the Disney movie Dinosaur and some Land Before Time movies to show what life was like for dinosaurs. They already watch the Dinosaur Train show, so they knew a lot about dinosaurs. We're currently exploring their extinction and it's pretty sad for Munchkin, so we picked up the book Dinosaur Cousins? at the library to cheer him up. He now sees dinosaurs everywhere.

Personally, we loved this book! It was easy to understand, the activities took little to no time to set up (though some did require trips to the store for supplies at the beginning of the week), and both kids enjoyed them. We actually took a step back from full lessons for a couple weeks over the summer, but these helped up get back into the swing of homeschooling through the rest of the year.

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is available for $24.95 (old edition) or $16.95 (new edition). There are two free PDF units that you can download to determine if this book is right for your homeschool or classroom. You can also find other freebies, lessons and activities on Susan's website.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages Review

Home School in the Woods Review

We received Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages from Home School in the Woods to review. Home School in the Woods creates hands-on learning materials for children that can be used by homeschoolers, co-ops or schools (though the co-op and school pricing is different). The recommended grades for this product is 3rd through 8th and can be used by a family with children of various ages.

We used this history study with both kids, although only Bean used the writing portion. As with most history lessons, we aimed for more of an introduction to the time period, and focused on the people, where they ruled, and what happened to them. Bean is a visual learner, so we use pictures, diagrams, maps and acted out events using her medieval toys to help her remember. We also used the timeline, which is the first one we have ever created, and she did amazingly well remembering dates! Munchkin sat out for most of the reading and writing parts of the lessons, but participated in the hands-on parts, like assisting cooking and helping to read the maps.

The Middle Ages starts around 200 AD and ends around 1500 AD. The age starts with what is commonly known as the Dark Ages, and then transitions into a time of discovery, exploration and invention. Project Passport covers so many topics during this study and it includes: invasions and wars, medieval life, class structure, science, education, church history, the Crusades, and different groups of people, such as Norse, Romans, Huns, Anglo-Saxon, etc. This history curriculum is loaded with literacy-based activities, hands-on activities and lessons, and even some exploration into science of the Middle Ages.

Having just read books and learned about the Roman Empire, it was perfect timing to start with the fall of the Roman Empire. The kids were already familiar with the time period and from there we established who the leaders were, where they came from and what territories they controlled. I actually printed out figures for the leaders and their armies and used our huge map of Europe to explain what happened.

But so far their favorite part has been learning about the different barbarian tribes and Britain during the ancient times. They were already familiar with Norse mythology when we started using Project Passport, so they immediately made the connection between the vikings and the Norsemen. We also looked into the languages each group spoke and what their written language looked like (Pict, Norse runes, etc.). Along with the maps and timeline, we have been using a language chart to mark how the language of an area changed through the ages as large groups of people either invade or move into new areas and how the influence of the language they spoke effected the language that is now known in that region. For example, the original Britons tried to defend their homeland (England), but where being pressed in on all sides. From the North they were attacked by the Irish, Picts and Scots, while from the South they were attacked by the Angles, Jutes, Frisians, and Saxons. Eventually the Anglo-Saxons cornered the Britons into what is now known as Wales and Northern Franch (Brittany). It was a combination of Anglo-Frisian that led to Old English, Middle English, and Modern English.

Cooking the old fashioned recipes was Munchkin's favorite part. He absolutely loved Wassail (it combines apple cider, orange juice, spices and is served warmed) and requests it quite often now, despite how hard it is to find apple cider out of season, so we've had to make our own (I highly suggest going the crock pot route). And to add to the cooking experience, we only used our cast iron pots and pans and wooden spoons for the rest of the recipes. The kids tried out Gruel (AKA oatmeal) and had the same feelings as I have, which was to push the bowl away. Pottage was approved, because they both love stews and soups. Herb bread was by far the most popular, and Bean has declared that we can only make our own bread from now on.

Home School in the Woods Review

Other World History Studies from Home School in the Woods: Ancient Egypt and Renaissance & Reformation.

There are 25 "Stops" included in this historical journey. They can be completed over an 8-12 week period. We prefer to work at our children's pace, so some weeks we only make it through one or two of the Stops. Along the way you will examine different events, meet people (lots of familiar names, and plenty of names I had never heard before - which was a bonus for me, since I love history), and explore the time period by using puppet figures, reading maps, cooking old fashioned recipes and reading the literature of those ages (we did this as a side project to explore authors from the middle ages - mainly poems and ballets, but also folk tales and stories).

So far we are keeping everything in a scrapbook box, with each stop in a separate, labeled manila folder. We only laminated a handful of the papers, such as the blank maps, which they can use a dry erase marker on to draw territory lines. I cut out labeled pieces of paper that were also laminated and have a velcro dot on the back of, so they can place them on the map after they are done drawing the lines. Bean's favorite part about labeling the maps are comparing them to modern day maps. She finds it unique that so many countries around the edge of Europe are large countries, while all the countries in the middle are all fairly small.

The Project Passport World History Studies are available to download - PC or Mac ($33.95) or on CD ($34.95) and is for individual family use. We received the download version and printed out lessons on a weekly basis. So for example, the first week we printed the cover, introduction, reading list, timeline and first lesson, along with a handful of other printables we wanted in advance, like the map, puppets and cookbook, among others. However, we have a black and white printer, so I'd suggest you use a color printer to fully utilize all of the printables. Because while most are black and white, a handful are not, such as the maps which have red territory lines. We will either use a red marker or a highlighter to draw over those lines.

Overall, we loved using Home School in the Woods' Middle Ages study. It was our first exploration into this time period, and the kids loved learning about European history. Now Munchkin is obsessed with knights, princesses, and Robin Hood, and Bean wants to be a viking warrior (I blame Thor comics) - mainly for the sword fighting, archery and armor. Another highlight was the learning games that were included. It took a couple plays for the kids to fully understand the games, but now they love them.

Additional materials we used to go with these lessons: Safari Ltd. Knights and Dragons TOOB and Days of Old TOOB for sensory bins and small world play, Dover coloring books for Middle Ages, Medieval Life, Costumes, and Knights, The Secret of Kells and Merlin on Netflix, and The Sword in the Stone movie. They also have several books on mythology that we read, as well as books from the library on vikings, celts, Norsemen, and history and life in the Middle Ages. Had the kids been a little bit older, we would have also introduced them to a handful of historical board games that are themed around the middle ages, such as Catan: Cities and Knights, Citadels, Kingsburg, Timeline, and Shadows over Camelot. Even Love Letter can be used to learn about the class structure within the castle of a princess.

I would highly suggest using Project Passport for history studies. It was an incredible curriculum to use (and are still using), and we really look forward to using some of their other curriculums in the future, such as Renaissance & Reformation, as a continuation of our current studies. And someday in the future, we'd love to revisit Ancient Egypt and use their materials for that time period as well. I really hope by then they have a few more choices for Project Passport, because that would be awesome and will just add to the learning experience! Hopefully there will be an industrial age to modern day passport and one that visits Asia during ancient times. We haven't used the Time Travelers series yet, which focuses on American history, but we plan to use them.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Circle C Adventures Review

Tales from the Circle C Ranch is a short-story collection about Andrea Carter. This book will transition readers from the Circle C Beginnings books to the Circle C Adventures books. There are six books in each series. Beginnings takes place while Andi is younger and is suitable for readers who are 6-9 years old, while the Adventures takes place when Andi is a teenager and the books are suitable for readers 9-14 years old. Andi's story doesn't end there though, because there are two new books in Milestones, suitable for readers 12+. There will hopefully be more to come in this new series!

Susan K. Marlow is a Christian fiction author who was inspired to write this book to answer questions from her fans. She is also a fellow homeschooler, which is why her books can be paired with lapbooks and study guidesAndrea Carter's Tales from the Circle C Ranch Learning Lapbook comes with the study guide, mini-booklets, lapbooks, and more. There is so much information about Andi's life, history, culture and more. So whether you're reading the books for pleasure or for school work (did I mention they are perfect for an Old West unit study?), anyone can use the lapbook to learn more.

Tales of the Circle C Ranch Bookk Review

Andrea Carter was born and raised on the Circle C Ranch, which is located in California, during the 1870's and 1880's. She's an active, independent kid who loves horses and going on adventures. She loves her family, friends and the horses she cares for.

Children who read the stories about Andi Carter will learn more than just her story, they will learn about the time period she lived in, like how people lived, what they did for work, their beliefs and way of life. It's a really cool way to learn about history, despite being a work of fiction. The location is real, the work they do is real and many people led that kind of life, and the sources are well researched.

And if you happen to have a son who wants to learn about this time period, but may not enjoy reading from a girls perspective (or vice versa, perhaps a girl wants to read from a boys perspective), there is another series called Goldtown Adventures for readers 8-12. It's about a 12 year old boy during the 1860's, after the Gold Rush, living with his sister and Pa. Like the Andrea Carter books, there are free study guides and lapbooks available for purchase.

Tales of the Circle C Ranch Bookk Review

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and my children also enjoy reading books about history. It's a great way to introduce them to the subject and then incorporate lessons and learning activities. We often take a hands-on approach and make recipes, visit museums, dress up in themed clothes and act out scenes, read lots of books from the library and set up small worlds using Safari Ltd toobs. We also research the topics that interest them, look at historical maps and pictures, and create craft projects that are inspired by objects that were used in the past.

We love reading about Andi's life and the many adventures she goes on. And we absolutely plan to use the Circle C Adventures and lapbooks on future unit studies about the Old West when the kids are a bit older.

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