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. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Book Review: Turn of the Century by Jackson

My kids loved this one. Each 2-page spread is about a child in that time period, beginning with 1000 AD. We used this in our introduction to the Middle Ages. My kids are 4, 6, 9 and 12 at the time of reading. All of them enjoyed it, even the 4yo, though her mostly the pictures. 

The kids depicted in the book ranged from about 8 to 12 I think. There was a narrative as if written by that child, followed by a bullet point list of facts about that time period. It was kept brief and entertaining. The art style was excellent. Some of the facts though were a bit gruesome (chamber pots, illness, life on board ship including eating rats, hanging), so read first if your kids are sensitive, but it was honest, keeping with the brutality of the times. It wasn't presented in a depressed or glorified way, but rather to educate.

This one gets 4 stars from us for excellent entertainment value with a nice balance of factual information.  With the range of ages we have, it is sometimes hard for us to find books that appeal across the group, and this one did a very good job.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf

We did a little more in Science Through Children's Literature today, this time talking about seasons and leaves falling, and read a book, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf.  This was an incredible book for all of us, one I hadn't seen before today.

I can't say enough good about this book.   The youngest got a little from it, but it really struck the 12yo.

Freddie is a leaf on a tree in a public space.  He tells us about himself and his friends, the other leaves.  He tells us about the spring and summer, the winds, the people who come to enjoy the shade.  Then he starts to change colors in the fall, and tells us about that.  He questions his wise friend, Daniel, another leaf, about what is next.  Daniel explains to him that they are changing colors and that the leaves are dying and falling in the winter, but that it is okay, they are all part of Life.  Freddie is frightened about dying, and Daniel reassures him and comforts him. 

On the surface this book is about the seasons of the tree.  But, of course, that is not all.  This book is about Life and Death, passing from one season to another in a year and in life. 

There are pictures of trees as the illustrations, a picture for most 2-page spreads but not every set.  There is a paragraph or two for most 2-page spreads.  This is a wonderful picture book for the elementary into middle school years really.  It is a beautiful story for all ages. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Science Through Children's Literature

We love teaching/learning through living books and always have.  Below I talked about Art Through Children's Literature, and now I'll share some of what we are doing with Science Through Children's Literature.  The science has two levels, beginning and intermediate.  We are working on the beginning one with all, Zach for review, the rest maybe some new information.

Today, we talked about trees, using A Tree is Nice as the introduction story.  Honestly, despite this being a Caldecott Winner, I wasn't terribly impressed with this book.  The shape being tall and narrow like a tree was an interesting feature, and the illustrations (alternating color and pencil) were nice, but the vocabulary and sentence structure were bland to the extreme.  It read like one of those tortuous level 1 readers kids try out when first learning to sound out words.  Needless to say, my kids were a bit bored with this one. 

We are notebooking this year though as our note taking activity, so we all then got out the science notebooks to write down something we learned.  Lily made a beautiful picture to illustrate her coniferous/deciduous distinction in her notebook. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Art 2014-2015

Here is where I admit that art is not a subject we do each year systematically.  I have used art curriculum in the past (Artistic Pursuits), plus we have done occasional informal co-op classes with a friend who is very artistic, on top of the usual casual arts and crafts kids produce. 

As it is summer and we are actually taking off this year for the most part, I decided to focus a bit more on art before the start of the core subjects again in September.  After thinking, I didn't want to go back to Artistic Pursuits, though we did enjoy it.  I decided to try Art Through Children's Literature: Creative Art Lessons for Caldecott Books


We did the first lesson today, which used pencil, paper and a library copy of Abraham Lincoln (Bicentennial Edition) Each child then tried to replicate the lesson, which was creating a log cabin with shading to attempt to show dimensionality. It wasn't the greatest success, but they tried and had fun. :)


Zach had lots of detail but skipped the shading entirely. Oh well, he enjoyed doing it and produced something. IMG_2862

Lily's attempt was interesting in her shading attempts but she also had a good time, and they are looking forward to tomorrow's book and lesson. IMG_2863

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Planning time! Preschool version


What's new with us? Planning, planning and more planning. We are going to be teaching 4 this year, ages 12, 8, 6 and 4. Whew. That equals approximately 7th grade, 4th grade, 2nd grade and pre-K. I wasn't going to do really anything for pre-K to be perfectly honest. My tune has changed a lot since my first was 4 years old and I had energy to burn on formal schooling of that child, eager to get started. Now, it's all about the play and a few fun workboxes at that age, or so I thought. Until she grabbed pencil in a really nice grip and started producing letters and saying their sounds spontaneously. Yep, those educational videos do work. But now she wants to write and read, so that laid back pre-K year is not really going to happen. I could slow her down, but I can't bring myself to ignore that passion and enthusiasm to get started.

I did Sonlight with my two oldest, starting with my oldest before the P3/4 I think they call it was even out. By my third child, honestly that had gotten old. We still have many of the lovely books around, and still read them, but I was past the snippets of several books each day. And I couldn't face another child with their learning to read/write program.

So for the third child we went way the opposite way and did Funshine Express with her. It was pretty much all crafts all the time with some learning in there too of course. It is really set up for daycares and the like, but worked fine for us. We did even a little of the Buttercups with the younger. The price though was really outrageous for our use. Since it is set up for daycares, you get your month at a time package, and the cost really adds up fast with shipping charges by the month with no option to get the whole year at once. Really a daycare would not want that option. So, while it was well organized and fun, it wasn't going to happen again for this fourth child.

I was stumped for a while, but then I saw Moving Beyond the Page had a new age 4-5 curriculum. We have used individual literature units from MBTP but never a whole level for a child as the core. We use it as add-on to our basic classical 4-year history cycle. Looking deeper into that 4-5 age curriculum though, it seemed perfect for us. It has the strong literature focus I loved from Sonlight but with a ton more hands on that I loved with Funshine Express. It was that ideal middle of the road thing for us, and was still open and go for this mom who honestly is tired some days and not up to planning out fun and exciting preschool crafts that week. So, late last week it finally arrived in our hands, and I'm excited to teach this! We got the Materials Kit and the curriculum. Being she is a fourth child, we already own a significant portion of the literature, and what we don't have the library does. There might be a book or two I need to order from Amazon or whatever, but that is fine. It came to just under $150 for the entire year, which is quite good as that included shipping on the box that was larger than my pre-K child.

Check it out with me, materials kit first:


Oh yeah, all organized and tidy in little baggies. This is looking good, right? This is the entire year in the box. Let's look at a single item or two. Each baggie is labeled for when it is used.

Random bag of dirt/sand? Huh. At least it's provided for me! LOL

Then there are the written guides, one for the parent and one workbook for the child. The parent one is broken out by week and day, open and go format. Perfect for me. The student one is just that ... the worksheets for her. As she is a young age 4, I plan to use the page protectors over some of the letter pages so she can practice then more than once. When she is confident, she can complete the page in her book. Sometimes too, the option of dry erase just adds an extra element of fun to her work.

IMG_2856 IMG_2857 IMG_2858

So that is her main lineup. I also have some tag-along stuff she will do with her older siblings in their studies, little lapbooks she can do as they do harder lapbooks for their level. But her Moving Beyond the Page is set up to be 30 weeks of curriculum, 26 letter units and 4 holiday special weeks. That is perfect for us, and we will be getting started in September. My next posts will be about my olders and their studies, so more to come!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Free Kindle Version: Battle with Bugs (Human Body Detectives)

There is a great freebie today, Kindle version of Battle with the Bugs of the Human Body Detectives line. These books are always a great way to liven up learning science.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Book recommendation: The Tree Lady

The Tree Lady is a brief biography of Kate Sessions, a female teacher in the 1800s who had an interest in science and nature, unusual for the time period.  This describes her education, move to San Diego and her subsequent search for trees that would grow well in this region, along with her influence of the tree planting of Balboa Park in time for the World Fair in San Diego. 

The writing is all appropriate for preschool or early elementary age students, and the illustrations are just beautiful.  This is a 5 star read for us, and especially applicable as it relates to our home city.

We used this as part of social studies as we live in San Diego.  My kids were very interested as we live near a park named for her, as well as visiting Balboa Park often and appreciating the trees there.  This was also wonderful from a science biography for younger kids as well. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Another freebie: Golden Mane

Free find for Kindle on Amazon today, with good reviews there and on Goodreads.  It is the first of a series.  Looks good for Zach and maybe Noah, but Noah is hesitant on paranormal stuff, finding it a bit scary, so I'll have  Zach read it first.  Has anyone already read this series?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kids freebie: Puddly the Penguin

Saw this Kindle freebie this morning and picked it up for Noah.  He loves stories about animals, and this one looks good.  You can read the first few pages inside Amazon to see if you/your kids would like it, but it's hard to beat free for a price.  Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book review: EKHO: Evil Kid Hunting Organization

My rating 3.5 stars out of 5

Elvis and his three friends, Levi, Jordy and Jackson, are 4th graders now, and have been bullied by the same bullies for several years. This year Elvis decides to do something about it, and enlists his friends to form EKHO, the Evil Kid Hunting Organization, to stop the bullies of their school. All four main boys have characteristics that make them the targets of bullies, Elvis having muscular problems, being wheelchair bound in the past, and still with a limp.

The good about this book: Strong boys who are bullied but not beaten down, good friends, who want to help all the bullied kids in school. Elvis talks about his mom and his extended family with love and pride. His mom loves him, and stands up for him. Elvis and his friends are true to themselves and proud of it. Mentioned are adaptive PE, IEPs and all kinds of other things typical public schooled kids would encounter and possibly make fun of.

The author, Marie Jones, also covers a lot of important topics as privacy when the EKHO agents start "spying" on kids. Elvis' mother points this out clearly so no reader could mistake it:

"EKHO has my blessing, but within certain boundaries. [She had described no video taping in bathrooms, teachers picking their noses, etc.] Those boundaries are breached and the only echo you'll be hearing is an empty bedroom with no computer, gaming gadgets, and the rest."

The spy gear, internet/tech stuff, gaming references, social media references, etc., etc., are all things to draw kids into the book. And those are presented in really a pretty positive way in this book. There is humor appealing to kids of the age group.

And there is a good mystery going on for the kids here ... with a bit of a cliffhanger ending to keep kids coming back for that next book.

My dislikes:

Too much of a focus on liking girls at times.  Again, these are 4th grade boys.

Lastly, too much specific name dropping - iphone, Halo, on and on. That might be specific to rope in reluctant readers, but it takes a book so fast. I doubt kids even a few years from know are going to recognize "Cake Boss," if they even do now.

Overall impression though is a good start to a series, and I might appeal to many kids. The wider the selection the better for kids ... keep them reading and enjoying. I feel the good messages in this book, explicit and implicit, far outweigh my dislikes above, but I do note those for parents and teachers. As for the mystery, I too want to know more about "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide an honest review.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Free ebooks for kids!

Free ebooks for adults (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc) abound, but the number for kids is much smaller and a bit harder to find IMHO.  It occurred to me to share a few I have found lately.  My older two (ages 11 and 8) read on Kindle, and the youngers read theirs on ipad as our Kindles are not color/fine graphics (i.e., Kindle Fire) but rather just for reading. 

For younger ones, we picked up these freebies lately:

Those were obviously for Eden and Lily (ages 6 and 3).  For Zach, I found this freebie today:

He has read one in this series before from the library and really enjoyed it. 

Obviously, my links may not be free when you read this, but they are as of this posting so hope you get a chance to grab them if you want them, and keep an eye out as books for kids do go free occasionally, or at least discounted. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014


As you know, we are privileged to have monarchs in our backyard each year.  Our kids love hunting for and observing them throughout their lifecycle.  Observing first hand has made them so appreciative of the miracle they are, and interested in learning more about them as they migrate.  In addition to our observations, I pick up books for them to read about all topics, including butterflies.  I happened across this new release pictured above, and wow, it is stunning.  I highly recommend this one.

The picture comes from the author's website:

She has there not only the usual bio and other books listings, but a nice little teacher resource area as well.

Her photographs were by Ellen Harasimowicz.  If you just want some eye candy, check out her site.  So fabulous.

This book describes for kids the lifecycle of a butterfly while depicting a butterfly farm in Costa Rica.

The photographs in this book could honestly be framed and hung in a gallery. They are just incredible really. Any kid (or adult) with a love of nature would pour over this book again and again to see the photographs within. I can think of no other children's book recently with photographs nearly as nice as these.

The text? Well, it is just okay. There is not anything wrong with it, but it doesn't stand out to me either. And that is okay. It is factual and informative, but really is just backup to our star player the photography. This book is ideal for a kid who doesn't like reading I would think.

In addition to photography, there is a simple lifecycle of the butterfly diagram, a map and glossary, further reading recommendations and website. This is a gem for early elementary kids for sure. I give it 4 stars overall, 3 stars for the content of the text and 5+++++ stars for the photography in this one.

I received an electronic copy of this book via Netgalley for an honest review.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Book review: Tools and Treasures of Ancient Egypt

As I have already mentioned several times, we follow the classical method of 4-year rotating history cycles, and this year is ancients again.  I had the opportunity to review this new resource and love it!

This is an overview book of ancient Egypt, best utilized probably as a read-aloud for around 1st/2nd grade or an independent level reading book for grade 3 or so. It carefully covers all the basic ancient civilization topics at an introductory level:
* What did they create/leave behind?
* What was the environment like (desert/water, homes)?
* What major crops did they eat/grow?
* Who were the neighbors/trade influences?
* What was the religion/language/culture?
* Brief intro to Egypt of today

Each page has 3-5 sentences of text and a clear photograph or illustration to add interest. All information is presented so that the youngest school-age children will understand and stay interested. There is a nice map with simple details and an inset showing where the detail map appears on the globe, again appropriate for grades K-3.

The back contains a very brief 1-page glossary, list of books for further information, websites and a very brief index. All of these would serve well as introductions to these features in books for early learners.

I give this book 5 stars used as an introduction for K-3 students approximately. The photos and text are clear and concise, visually interesting, not overwhelming at all. There are shelves and shelves of Egypt books in just about every library I have ever visited, but many are geared towards more middle school and up. It is very nice to see an updated intro book with modern photos and illustrations for the youngest set.  This is really especially suited to a first pass through a 4-year history cycle if you are classical homeschoolers. 

I received an electronic copy of this book free through Netgalley for an honest review.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Nature Journaling


I purchased this book a little over a year ago now.  After using and appreciating it, I wanted to review it a bit for those in need of a guide. 

This guide shows how to create a gorgeous ongoing project of a nature journal. It is applicable to kids or adults, though kids might need a parent helper to read and interpret it all. Projects are given for a variety of ages or "all ages" depending on the project. No prior experience drawing is required. The examples given are inspirational without being overwhelming for those of us without a lot of native art talent. Most are shown black and white as would be common if you were out with just a pen and paper, but it also shows colored pencil or watercolor addition.

The book shows tons of examples in text and pictures how to add details such as dates, temperature conditions, scientific facts, etc., to your journal. The drawing techniques and examples could to be used to teach a child to enhance lab notebooks rather than a "journal" per se.

I use this with all my kids, and they are really taking to the idea, even now grabbing their journal without prompting to run into the yard to draw something. Nature journaling is helping them to be more aware in the world, and recognizing smaller details.  Even my youngest (age 5/6 at the time of starting) is able to do basic drawings and observations.

There is a companion almost blank (few notes or hints) hardcover journal that you can buy to go with this guide that I highly recommend. The HC journal is tough and withstands kids very well.