Monday, August 31, 2015

Book review: Pedro's Journal

Rereading this 8/31/15 with a new crop of youngers: Still love this one. It is a first-person, journal-style account of our fictional ship's boy (Pedro) as he travels on the Santa Maria headed for India. As we know, that is not where he ends up. It is fictional obviously, but a great introduction to traveling to the New World for the youngest readers (2-3rd grade probably) and even younger if you are doing it as a read-aloud. It is short enough to be engaging but not exhausting, and the first-person through the eyes of a child helps reach the audience. I love using this one as a lead-in to the nonfiction parts of this era of history, as well as talking about diary or journal style writing. Other reviewers mentioned portraying Columbus in a negative light, and that is pretty true. My philosophy is presenting a wide array of fictional and nonfiction accounts from different perspectives and talking about them. Especially as you go back further and further in time, you are left with subjective assessments of what really happened, and especially of the personality of those portrayed (well, that is true even today).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: Africa is Not a Country

Lily is using some of the level 6-8 Moving Beyond the Page curriculum this year, and there we came across the book Africa is Not a Country. I just have to take a moment to rave here. Lily is my third to be doing the whole exploring the geography of the continents and learning about different cultures thing that pretty much every curriculum includes in the early years. It is important, but I have always been kind of "meh" on most of the books we have encountered over the years. They are either not detailed enough but interesting (thinking more fiction) or very detailed but very dry reading for the early years. With that, I was very very pleasantly surprised to see this one.



The illustrations are drawn rather than photos but detailed. The front has a string of kids holding various flags of the countries within Africa. It has a map of Africa in the front with all the countries labeled, but it does break it down into more manageable pieces for the elementary imagination. Example: "If you drew a picture of Africa's landscapes on a large pie and cut it into ten equal pieces, only one pieces would contain all of its rain forests. Four pieces would represent the deserts ...." This is something a kid can understand. Following this, each 2-page spread shows a nice illustration of a family and some about that family in narrative style. The cultural information is nicely included into the text with the focus being on the children described and not the list of details, i.e., "The boys kiss their parents' hands and respond 'Yekenielai,' which means 'thank-you' in Tigrinya, a widely spoken language in Eritrea." In the sense that each page turn encompasses a different region, it reads similar to Children Just Like Me by DK Publishing. That, by the way, is our second favorite for teaching about world cultures to children.



Africa is not a country though is (obviously!) just about Africa unlike the DK book, and it is much much less dense. I think for my family the DK book is better for 3-6th grades, child the Africa Is Not a Country book is suitable for the younger set, down into pre-K. The back does contain a summary of each country with population, capital and so forth for reference, but the focus is really reading it aloud for youngers. Lily really really loved this one for learning. The prior study was Asia, and we did use Exploring Asia by Kalman, but as mentioned above it was data dense and a little dry though still good. This one on Africa though really stands out among the crowd for interest in the youngest students so I had to put that out there!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Kindle Freebie today: Gold Rust California

Saw this to share, good for teaching the gold rush era or as part of a history of California study, which we are doing currently with Noah as part of the typical 4th grade year state study for him.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Moving Beyond the Page: Culture Unit

We have been dabbling in using Moving Beyond the Page here and there for a couple years now.  I started with just individual units for Zach, mainly literature units to supplement what he was already studying.  Then, as I mentioned earlier in the year, I purchased the entire age 4-5 curriculum for Eden.  That is going really, really well given that I also got the supply kit.  I cannot emphasize what a stress reliever it is to have everything I need for her all organized and ready.  Without that, I think she would fall right through the cracks of daily life in terms of our homeschooling.  As pre-K, she is last priority this year in terms of concrete curriculum. 

Given that the above was going so incredibly well, I got a unit for Lily too this semester.  She usually just tags along with Noah for most things, keeping my life a little easier, but her social studies of Medieval Times, while fun this year, was sometimes a little hard for her personally.  This Culture Unit seemed just the thing for her age, and I have started it on the one day a week when the boys are in on-site classes but she is home with Eden and me.  We are going to look at geography and world cultures geared for age 6-8. 

Our first day, we are looking at an intro to geography and maps, and opened with this book:



A little Armadillo from Texas decides to take a trip to find out where in the world he actually is.  He starts out on foot, mailing postcards back to his cousin in the zoo in Texas.  He travels across plains to cities, further out, meets an eagle who lets him fly higher to see further, onto a rocket ship to go higher, etc. 

The words are rhyming, keeping interest of the kids, very lyrical to read aloud.  Each 2-page spread has great illustrations. 

This book is obviously most interesting if you are from Texas or Amarillo, but for any elementary child it can serve as a jump point to talk about geography and location, a common thing to teach around 1st grade or so.  The book goes from ground to city to state to country to continent to planet, etc.  That is exactly how we used this book, a fun fictional account to lead us into our study of geography with a 2nd grader and a pre-K child. 

The book actually reminds me of a more updated version of this book we found used and have used as a fun fictional account of world geography:



Both books are excellent to introduce geography in a more engaging way than just - this is a map, blah, blah, blah.  Some kids really are into nonfiction and want just the facts, but most of mine I found loved the fictional stuff.  In terms of Moving Beyond the Page, they used our Armadillo to lead up to an Usborne title, Usborne Children's Picture Atlas, which actually is good too.  Lily is absolutely loving her first day of this though, and I couldn't be happier.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Brother printer - today's Amazon Gold Box Deal

I had to share today's Amazon Gold Box Deal because it is the printer we use, and it has saved us a lot versus the old inkjet we had.   The price today is $55, good deal, but anyone who does a lot of printing knows the cost is really the ink not the actual printer.  Though I will say this has lasted us without issues or problems, either directly connected or via wireless connections to our Mac (problems in the past with that with other printers).   I use off brand cartridges from Amazon without problems, so it is fast, does duplex printing and is economical. I miss the color ability sometimes but not too much really.  Just sharing for those in the market for a new printer. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Little Island



This is Eden's craft of the morning.  The other three are all taking on-site classes on Mondays, so it is just the two of us.  So quiet!

She is working on Moving Beyond the Page Age 4-5 this year as her curriculum, and we are just loving it.  There is a book each week, and activities surrounding that book.  This week is The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown.  This is a cute little book, simple enough for the preschool set to listen to and enjoy, but meaty enough for some naturalistic learning.  There is a little island in the ocean, and we see the visitors to the island throughout the seasons, very cute.  In Eden's craft for today, she created her island (the white is the island, blue the water around it), and then placed the correct number of die-cut trees and bushes on the island - practicing her counting of course.  She cut out her rock for the island, and then added the firefly stickers.  This one was a huge hit for her.  I can't say enough good about Moving Beyond the Page.  We got the supplies kit, and I love pulling out the baggie of activities for the week with my stickers, die-cuts, etc.  Left to my own devices, I would not be hunting up die-cut trees and bushes.  This is just such a good blend of literature, crafts and more traditional learning for us (letters, numbers, etc). 


Friday, September 12, 2014






As I mentioned, we are working on "notebooking" this year for science and history, more interactive way of taking notes and documenting.  This is a picture Zach worked on from his Elemental Science Logic Stage Biology.  We love Elemental Science.  They provide nice student pages with space for notes and places or outlines of sketches.  I had him copy the sketch into his laboratory notebook and then label and add color.  Then, he did his laboratory writeup in the pages afterwards for the week instead of doing them in the student pages.  We used the student pages last year, and they were certainly adequate, but with our focus this year I wanted more and chose to go this way.  He continues to do his lab with a buddy each week, which adds some extra fun into his studies.