Saturday, November 26, 2016

Friday Wrap-Up ~ Almost Time for Our December Break!

I can't believe December is right around the corner! The kids are looking forward to taking most of the month off from school. We will only be doing Tuesday school with our homeschool friend. I must admit, I am looking forward to it, too. We have been going strong almost every day since the beginning of August.

In our little corner of the world, the wildfires are still raging, and there is still no to little rain in sight. The air quality is keeping us indoors ALL of the time. We are getting a bit restless. Thank goodness for dance. The kids get lots of their energy out at classes and rehearsals. I, however, miss my walks. We are keeping busy indoors.

Science ~ We wrapped up several experiments this week. The first was our mummy experiment that we started back at the end of October. We carved designs into apples and covered the apples in a combination of baking soda, salt and powdered bleach. We started a control apple in a zip lock bag by itself. Then we waited the better part of a month. On opening day, we were pleasantly surprised.

Our mummy apples were preserved but spongy. The flesh was completely white. Our control apple was rotten in places and covered in mold on one side. 

We also completed our red cabbage pH indicator strips and used them. We boiled red cabbage and cut up coffee filters into strips. We then dyed our strips with the cabbage liquid and set them to dry. We also made our control liquids. We made a control base with ammonia and distilled water and a control acid with vinegar and distilled water. After a few days we conducted our experiments.  We dipped our strips into diluted milk, bleach, coffee, wine vinegar, tea and lemon. The strips changed colors. We determined by the color change whether or not the item was a base or acid. The activity worked out great.

Art~ The kids are busy making Christmas gifts in art with Miss Laura. I can't wait to see what they produce. Elijah made a very detailed Shrinky Dink. He drew the Celtic knot free hand. I am so amazed by his attention to detail. It would make a lovely piece of jewelry. It is about the size of a half dollar.

Grandma also conducted another one of her awesome art classes for my kids and their twin friends who are also homeschooled. We learned all about book illustrations. The kids looked through many picture books from their childhoods and shared memories of their favorite picture books. They realized that the illustrations in picture books are very important. We picked Shel Silverstein for an in-depth study. Then they learned about Shel Silverstein's life and looked through several of his books to find poems they liked. They each chose a poem that he had not illustrated. We photocopied the poems and they pasted it onto the page and illustrated it. 

Dean with one of his favorite childhood books, The Story of Ferdinand

We are trying to find a good stopping point for the rest of our subjects. We will be continuing art, science and geography in December. I am sure there will be lots of music, too. Next week, we are really going to have to read lots more of Hitty Her First Hundred Years in order to complete it. We also are a bit farther behind in math than I would like to be before break. However, we are not likely to get too much farther ahead, since it is also tech week for the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. C'est la vie!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wildfires, Emotions and Nutcracker Prep

It has been a rough week around here. The more than 30 wildfires that are all around us are really making it hard to breathe. Our oldest son must stay inside all of the time because he has asthma. Many people are having lung issues and the local hospital is very busy with sufferers. We desperately need rain.

Image result for party rock fire pictures

On the homefront, this has been a week when relationships and health took precedence over school. We are working hard to keep everyone physically and emotionally healthy. It is an uphill battle for some.

We are in full force with rehearsals for The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The kids are at the dance studio six days a week. This year Dean is a street sweeper, a guard, a party guest and a Spanish doll. Anne is a street sweeper, a guard, a cat and an elastic doll. Anne has wanted to be an elastic doll since she was a little girl so this is a dream come true.

What we did for school ~
  • 15+ hours of dance classes and rehearsals for both kids
  • Learned a new hamstring stretch program for Dean (flexibility is a real struggle because of his cerebral palsy)
  • Made red cabbage indicator strips for our chemistry class
  • Did two chapters in chemistry
  • Completed three math lessons for each child
  • Read daily
  • Read aloud two chapters in our family read-aloud, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years
  • Completed two more lessons from Cover Story for English
  • Anne hand sewed a flower pillow.
  • Dean is working on a Shrinky Dink of a Celtic knot that he drew himself.
  • Wrote in their journals daily.
  • Watched several documentaries to understand more about how firefighters fight wildfires
  • Practiced three hours of piano (Anne) and for ukulele (Dean).
  • Wrote a 250 word report on Benjamin Franklin
  • Watched CNN Student News daily

We also went to the opening of the movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. We loved it. I hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving. We are planning a very quiet and light Thanksgiving this year. 

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew ~ Commissioned

Commissioned {Chara Games}
My crew really loves board games and was very excited to review the new board gameCommissioned from Chara Games. This is a cooperative strategy game in which everyone playing has to work together to achieve goals. It is a deck-building game set in the first century during the spread of Christianity. The game follows the apostles through real life events to spread the church. There are many trials along the way, and the players must work together to succeed and win the game. It is designed to take one hour and is geared for 14 years and older. Although this game is about the spread of Christianity, it is based on historical events and is to be played like a historical game instead of a game that proselytizes.
Commissioned {Chara Games}
We were impressed with the quality of this game from the moment we opened the box. It is very well made and all of the pieces are sturdy. The board is beautifully illustrated. The board is two sided so that one can play the game at different levels. The cards are made of high quality card stock. The instruction manual is a bit daunting, but we were able to understand the instructions. There are several helpful videos on the website that can help a visual learner understand the game better. 

What we thought ~ We were intimidated by this game. The direction manual is really long and complex. Even figuring out the setup was complicated. It differs on how many people are playing and what level they will be playing. We are much more used to pick up games with simple rules. This is a complex game that really takes a good amount of time to learn. We found that the 14+ age suggestion was really true. My daughter (newly 13) decided to play with me on one team against my son and husband. We found that the game also takes two hours or more to play. Then again, maybe we are just slow. The player's goal is to spread churches throughout all of the cities. However, if all of the candles are extinguished because churches are lost, the game ends and everyone loses. We relied very heavily on the manual each time we played and had to discuss each move in lots of detail. I think it would be very helpful to learn this game from someone who already truly understood the game. 

Things we loved
  • The theme book, which gave some history, was wonderful. It really helped us learn more about this time period and what was really going on during the early days of Christianity.
  • The videos I found on the website were helpful for our visual family.
  • We liked the variety of trials. It makes the game feel like a brand new adventure each time we played.
  • We liked learning about the different apostles and getting to use their particular skills. 
  • The communication with this company was very helpful.
  • We really liked the quality of this game. It could be an heirloom that is passed down through the family. It really is built that well!
  • There are five variations to the game, so it has lots of potential to keep players entertained for a long time. 
  • Playing this game will bring family members or friends closer together. 

Chara Games is coming out with more Christian-based games. One such game is 3 Seeds. This game will have a shorter play time and is about using time, money and labor to complete crops and harvest them. 

This is a great game with potential for those who like cooperative games. To see what others had to say about Commissioned, click on the banner below. 

Commissioned {Chara Games}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tending the Home Fires

What a week! This was a stressful week for my household and our country. My son has had a very difficult week at dance. He has been dealing with a bully, and I had to finally intervene on his behalf. The dance studio dealt with it quickly, but the damage is done; and I have work to do on the home front to strengthen my son's self-esteem. Also, my children watched this very bitter election very carefully. This was the first major election that they were really old enough to understand, and it was a rough one to watch. They really thought that, once the election was over, life would go back to normal. I always feared that it wouldn't and it won't. This election really dredged up the anger, fear, hatred and division that is running deep in our country right now. There is much work to do to bring peace, respect, kindness, understanding and cohesiveness to our country. My children have witnessed first hand the hatred that usually doesn't permeate openly our rather open-minded little city. Our friend's adopted children are crying, because classmates told them they are going to be deported back to Africa. We also have seen white supremacy supporters screaming in our city streets. This is all very shocking to my children. 
Here are our shoe boxes for Meals on Wheels and Operation Christmas Child.
What is a mother to do? My children are always, I start at home. We are a family that believes that everyone is a child of God and has a right to thrive on this planet. Everyone is a gift. We must find the light in each and every person. There are times that finding the light in a person is very difficult, especially when they are spewing hatred. But we must find the light. So we are doubling our efforts to show kindness. We are praying, caring, trying to understand and living our lives gently. We are asking, "What would Jesus do?" The Prince of Peace would not be spewing hatred.
We attended the soft opening of our new science museum.
As this week has passed, I have reminded my children that they are responsible for their actions and words, that they can always spread light in the darkness. So we step through our days lightly, basking in the love we find and praying for those who are struggling to feel and show love.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Review ~ Sentence Diagramming Beginning

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
Have you ever wondered if your child should be learning to diagram sentences? I must admit, I didn't learn how to diagram sentences when I was a student; and I wasn't sure it was a necessary skill. I was intrigued when I was offered the opportunity to review Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
When I received the book, I read the about book page. I was excited to see that this system of organizing sentences was good for the visual learner. Both of my students are visual learners. We live in a very visual age with all of the media our kids watch. Furthermore, I was pleased to learn that it would help the more mathematically minded student succeed with grammar because of the way diagramming is organized. This book is geared toward grades 3-12+. I think it would be good even for adults. The pages are set up with an example of the current lesson, practicing a given sentence, creating your own sentences and correcting diagrammed sentences that have an error. 
My daughter is in seventh grade this year, and she has struggled with grammar all of her life. My mother, who absolutely loves grammar and diagramming sentences, was very excited to review this book with my daughter. We both expected it to be a real struggle for her. We were pleasantly surprised that my daughter took to the book quickly. She found the directions in the book very clear. We all appreciated that the lessons progressed slowly enough that the student was able to learn each step in diagramming a sentence broken down into small, simple parts. There are 12 lessons in all. Each lesson has four pages of practice. Lesson 1 begins with simple subjects and a main verb. The last lesson covers compound predicate adjectives and nouns. There are also five review pages. Lastly, there is an answer key in the back of the book, which is very helpful for those of us who have never diagrammed a sentence, ahem!
Although my daughter wasn't very excited about learning how to diagram sentences, she did find it to be an "okay" activity. She also seemed to understand it quickly, which increased her confidence. My daughter likes workbook pages. She experiences a sense of accomplishment when she sees the accumulation of neatly completed pages. She did agree that this was a "good way to learn grammar and get a not so fun task completed" in a timely fashion. She liked the format of the pages. The directions were very clear to her, and she liked that the pages were not overwhelming with lots of extra "pictures and decorations". The only thing on the pages was the lessons. She thought the book was "mature and age appropriate".

We really enjoyed this book from The Critical Thinking Co. We have been very pleased with educational material from this company in the past, and they have done it again with this great workbook. The homeschool review crew received several different books to review. They even received some software to review. So go check out all of the different reviews by clicking on the banner below. 
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Week of Homemade Erupting Volcanoes

We are having so much fun in science this year. I am really happy that it is clicking for everyone and that we have found a schedule that I can stick to. Getting enough science done to satisfy my children has been a challenge in recent years. This year, we have a friend over to do science with us for two to three hours. Then the kids are assigned open-ended homework (such as a paper) to do before the next class. They can spend a little or a lot of time on the homework paper/project depending on their interest in the topic. They seem to be satisfied, finally!

Our most recent science project was making and erupting volcanoes. We began with a box as our landscape. I cut a hole in the bottom of the box that the Snapple or a similar bottle could move through. Then we covered the bottle with a plastic bag (to be removed later), so the volcano structure would not stick to it during assembly.

We then used cardboard strips to build the frame.

Next, we used lots of Plaster of Paris and paper towels to create the shape of our volcano. We used paper towels because they gave a smooth surface to paint on later.

Once their volcanoes were dry, we painted them with acrylic paint.

The day finally arrived to erupt our volcanoes. I made up a lab sheet so the kids could record their observations. We used this website for our first eight trials. I really liked how they learned more about having a control group in experimenting and that they got to see how to make their eruptions bigger through the trials.

We then moved on to the hydrogen peroxide and yeast eruptions. You can find instructions here. These were much more exciting than the vinegar and baking soda eruptions. 

Lastly, we moved outside to do Mentos and Coke eruptions, because there is always time for more messes! 

Ah, science! We had a blast!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Homeschool Legacy Unit Study Review

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
We recently had the pleasure of reviewing Cooking Up History With the Founding Presidents from Homeschool Legacy. This is a Once-a-Week Micro-Study that is loads of fun.  
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
I love the idea of a unit study that can be used during a busy season or when we need a change of pace for a little while. This unit is intended for grades 1-8. My kids are in 7th and 8th grade. I felt that the suggestions and information were grade appropriate and easily enhanced for the older student. We read a biography for most of the four presidents and just reviewed what we knew about John Adams, since we studied him for a long period last year. I really liked that we either could spend a very short time on this study or expand it if we wished. What made this study really unique was the cooking component. There is a recipe of each of the four presidents favorite foods. My kids love to learn through cooking, and they were very excited about making each food to conclude our weekly study.
The first president covered in this unit was George Washington. We learned about George Washington and then made a cherry pie. We used our own recipe for this one. The kids got a kick out of eating cherry pie. We decided to have it while having an afternoon tea in George Washington's honor. This was the first time my poor, neglected children had ever had cherry pie, and they thought it was pretty good. 
We then moved on and reviewed John Adams. The kids were very excited to make Apple Pandowdy in a real cast iron skillet. None of us had ever had it before, but with apples in it, what could go wrong? Wow, the molasses that was called for in the recipe ruined it. The dowdy tasted awful. Even our dog Boomer, who eats ANYTHING and is always trying to steal food, ran down the hall away from it. After a bit of research, I discovered that most recipes do not call for any molasses. I also learned that diluted molasses is used to remove rust from cast iron. My cast iron did not have any rust, but it looks better than ever after it's accidental molasses treatment!

After the molasses incident, we decided to use our own tried and true recipes with the remaining two president lessons. For Thomas Jefferson, Dean made macaroni and cheese. He perfected his roux, and the mac and cheese came out great. He loved learning that Thomas Jefferson also loved what is Dean's favorite dish, macaroni and cheese. 
Lastly, we made vanilla ice cream for James Madison. We had fun making this treat and learning more about one of the presidents that we knew nothing about. Did you know that James Madison was only 5'4", and that his wife called him her "great little Madison"?
Homemade Ice Cream!
What we loved ~ We loved the concept of this study. My kids learn so much more when there is a project involved in the learning, and cooking is at the top of their most desired projects. The lessons are short and easy to follow. The needed materials were on hand or easy to come by at the grocery store. I liked that the study suggested reading a biography of our choice on each president. It was very convenient to be able to select whatever we wanted instead of having to search out a particular book. I just looked on my own home library shelves for three of the presidents and referred to the Internet for the last president. 
What we hope will be improved ~ I had to tweak the recipes I used. Some of the recipes should have complete overhauls. I think they should have been tested before going into the unit study. I would strongly suggest finding your own recipe until there are improvements made to this unit study. 
I would like to try some of the other Homeschool Legacy once-a-week unit studies. Christmas Comes to America looks great. Also, Victoria and Her World  looks wonderful. The price is right at only $12 to $14 for each study.
To see what others had to say about these micro-studies from Homeschool Legacy, click on the banner below. 
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn