Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets - Science and Space Exploration


Tiny Planets websites are a complete learning tool for 3-5 year olds and an exciting enrichment experience for older children.  Co-created by Sesame Workshops, the producers of Sesame Street, and endorsed by Montessori Centre International, Tiny Planets uses games and safe social interaction to provide an engaging science and space exploration experience. 

Tiny Planets encourages stewardship of the earth as children adopt and care for their own planet, rid the universe of trash and go on space missions with their alien friends Bing and Bong.


After I set up my Parent Account, which manages all child accounts and purchases, we began to explore the websites.  The Tiny Planets Books and TV shows offer preschoolers gentle lessons in social and emotional development, such as fear of the dark.  Other episodes treat weather cycles, patterns, music and shapes. The companion books are designed to be read online by parents and early readers.  Lesson Plans on Tiny Planets Learning tie TV and Books together along with critical thinking exercises, games and art and craft projects.  It also includes printable worksheets for letter and number recognition, as well as online puzzles and printable craft project directions.  


My seven year old son went straight to My Tiny Planets to begin his missions, get his own spaceship and adopt a planet to design and care for.  He can name his planet, grow oxygen-releasing plants to keep it healthy and choose landscapes, buildings and scenery to make it attractive.  More games are available on Tiny Planets Labs, where new content is created and tested.  Tiny Planets Fun has puzzle games, coloring books and comics for all ages to enjoy.

I enjoyed the Tiny Planets Blog, where more detailed postings cover such subjects as the planet Jupiter, Mirrors and Math, and making a Winter Scene under a clear plastic drinking cup.  I also like that Tiny Planets is designed to be a "safe" online experience for children.  There are no ads to distract from the desired content and "accidentally" click on.  All "chats" are through pre-set blurbs, programmed into the games.  Most of the content is free, although with the purchase of "keys", 10 for $1.95, parents can allow children to "buy" extra television episodes of Bing and Bong, as well as extra features for their games.

See what other Homeschool Crew members are saying about Tiny Planets:  Homeschool Crew

No compensation was received for this review.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Morning God - Apologia Books


Three.  That's how many times my second grade son read this book with his dad before I even got a look at it.  "Good Morning, God" by Davis Carman, illustrated by Alice Ratterree, published by Apologia Press, is a very child-friendly book.  It spoke to my son's heart, which was evidenced by the fact that he kept re-reading it during our extended visit with family over Thanksgiving.  He even insisted (really, with no prodding from me!) upon doing all of the Questions and Activities in the back of the book.  Good Morning God became our reading and faith building curriculum for the week we spent homeschooling on the road.  The story follows a young boy in his daily life for one week, from Sunday to Sunday.  It can be read straight through, or as a bedtime story.  If you choose you can read one day at a time and do the questions and activites for that day.  No matter how this book is used, it demonstrates to our children and ourselves, "the simple and wonderful ways we can worship God...with our entire being all through the day." (from How to Use this Book).

Written for 1-8 year olds, this book is a non-denominational Christian discipleship tool, emphasizing whole hearted, joyful love for God and faith in Jesus.  The many scripture references in the Question and Activities section are taken from the Zondervan edition of the New International Version of the Holy Bible.  Questions and Activities include subjects such as heaven, what is a soul, sin, how can you take care of your body, go on a bike ride, and draw a picture of an ear. 

This is a quality, hardcover childrens book, with sturdy pages and beautiful color illustrations, priced at only $14.00, it is constructed to last a lifetime with gentle care.  The accompanying coloring book is only $4.00.  Other books are available from this company at Apologia Press.
See what other Homeschool Crew members are saying about this product here: Homeschool Crew.

We received one copy of "Good Morning God" free for posting an honest evaluation.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Christmas Time in the City

I just got back to the homestead from visiting my family in the Big City.  It was a particularly enjoyable visit, and for once I wasn't quite ready to come home.  This trip, I was able to appreciate the little pockets of respite in an otherwise dingy, expensive, lonely city life. 

I sat outside my son's apartment, watching him play basketball with his little brother, and admired the palm trees, stretching up above the rooftop of the complex, swaying and rustling in the chilly breeze, waves of green against the blue of the sky.  I took delight in watching the Christmas decorations going up in mom and dad's neighborhood; twinkling lights, inflated, lit-up snowmen, front yard Nativity scenes.  I soaked up some last autumn rays of sunlight on a strategically placed patio nook with southern exposure at my parents' house.  Over the years the old neighborhood has gone from plain and drab to green and well tended, with colorful flower beds, not restricted to the edges of the houses, but creatively scattered throughout front yards.

As much as I basked in the comfort and love of my family, there were those moments when I knew I must eventually return home to my own life, where the background noises come from the chicken coop and the paddocks and a wild indian of a boy, not from constant traffic and electronic buzz.  The early morning aroma is from the barnyard and the juniper trees, and not that peculiar big city odor of mingling garbage and sewage.  And the blankets of stars in the darkness before dawn, outnumber the streetlights ten billion to one.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Arrivals at Mrs. D's Homestead

Occasionally when I let the chickens out to free range, one will not come back.  Usually  it has become dinner for a coyote, but once in a while, it will reappear and surprise me.  This is the case with this mama hen and her chicks. 

We were just finishing up breakfast and I was thinking about having a cup of tea with the llamas in the backyard when li'l homesteader dashed into the house squealing with delight.  When he finally regained control of his tongue, he blurted out, "baby chicks in the back yard, Betty's (our pit bull "guard" dog) not even eating them!".  I stumbled over my feet to get my camera out of my purse and jammed my shoes on as I ran out the back door.

The proud mama strutted all over the yard, showing off her handsome brood to curious rabbits and majestic llamas alike.  Betty, ever the protective mother, snarled at the crea for getting too close to "her" chicks.  Mamma llama seemed only mildly interested, having recently supplied what she felt to be the supreme gift to the homestead, her crea.  After parading her chicks around the chicken coop, mama hen settled down with her babies in the goat pen for a little nap. 

What a joyful day!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Worksheets on Demand - KBTeachers


Looking for a fun way to reinforce that grammar lesson?  Math activities for your pre-reader?  A fill-in body parts identification chart?  Teachers, homeschoolers, parents, KBTeachers offers worksheets, workbooks and clip art to supplement almost every subject.

KBTeachers has seasonal themed worksheets and acitvities, changeable elementary math worksheets, English worksheets plus manuscript and cursive practice pages.  There are printable charts showing the American Sign Language alphabet for letters and numbers, as well as decoding charts for Morse Code letters and numbers.  We really like the ASL chart, as we're trying to incorporate ASL into our schoolday.  My son is getting interested in codebreaking, so I can see Morse Code coming into the school room very soon.

Other printable worksheet and workbook subjects include astronomy, geology, weather and climate, and biology.  We just did a study on tears this week, and the printable eye anatomy chart (simplified) came in extremely handy.  The social studies section is geared primarily for middle to high school level students and includes ancient civilizations, medieval Europe, the cold war, and much more.  We're touring the continents this year and are currently studying South America.  I've just printed out the Map of South America as well as a research chart to compare and contrast three of it's countries.

To get unlimited access to all this great stuff, KBTeachers offers a FREE 10 day trial.  If you like what you're getting, you can continue on for just $29 for one year, or a discounted $49 for two years of premium membership.  You can't lose with KBTeachers' 30 day money back guarantee.

As if all of the above weren't enough, you can sign up for KBTeachers' free newsletter, which notifies subscribers of updates to the site, featured seasonal themes (fall, halloween, Christmas), special day worksheets (Veteran's Day, National Sandwich Day, Daniel Boone's Birthday), and new offerings.

Many worksheets can be customized and revised to use over and over and unlimited printables mean more fun for students and less work for the teacher.  Did I mention that worksheets are extremely helpful when you're on the go, carschooling, or overwhelmed?  High-fives for KBTeachers, which is turning into an awesome resource for our homeschool classroom this year!

See what other Homeschool Crew members are saying about KBTeachers.

We received a free one year membership to KBTeachers in exchange for publishing our opinion here.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Historical Craft Kits by Corps of ReDiscovery


The Corps of ReDiscovery is more than a great educational resource.  It is the story of a homeschooling family who took a year and a motor home and travelled the path of the original Corps of Discovery - Lewis and Clark - and then some.  They lumberjacked in Minnesota, swam where the Boston Tea Party took place, and harvested wild fruit along the way.  By the time they returned home, they had explored 47 of our great states, dozens of national parks and even more museums.

With imaginations fired and enthusiasm driving them, they began to produce craft kits based on their adventures into history.  Their emphasis is on early America and the skills and crafts needed to survive as American Indians, pioneers, frontiersmen and colonists.  Some of the kits available are:  Corn Husk Doll, Drop Spindle, Quilt, Moccasins, Bear Claw Necklace and many others. 


We received the Tomahawk Kit from the American Indian Package.  It arrived with everything needed to assemble it.  My seven year old son could barely contain himself on the ride home and as soon as we entered the house he opened it up and put it together all by himself.  He added several embellishments of his own which were not included.  To his disappointment, and his mother's relief, the blade was leather instead of steel.  The kit retails for $7.99 and is a great way to enrich your study of early Americans.  It is also offered as part of the American Indian Package which also includes the Headband, Bear Claw Necklace, Skin Frame, Fringe Pouch, Stone Arrowheads and Moccasin Kits all together for a special price of $59.94.

View all the great products from Corps of ReDiscovery.  Read reviews on other Corps of ReDiscovery products here:  The Homeschool Crew.

This product was received free of charge for review purposes.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Collectorz - All Your Books At Your Fingertips

For all those with ginormous collections of books, hehemm, is a terrific way to organize them. offers database software to organize your books, music, movies, comics, games, mp3s, and photos.  We received Book Collector for our review.  Just input your ISBN or scan it using one of three barcode scanners offered by the company.  Up pops cover art, author, publisher, title, publication date, plot summary and other book data from the company's online data base.  You can then edit and add details, such as purchase price, where you bought it, who you loaned it to, your own plot summary and notes and just about anything else you want to remember about the book.

For just $29.95 plus $19.95 for the most economical scanner, you can have your books organized better than the local library's.  You can also create and export a page to your website or blog, to share or sell your books.

Anyone with a large media collection will benefit from using these databases and maybe organizing your collection on the shelf a bit.  How many times have you racked your brain, knowing you saw that book somewhere but can't remember where?  Simply add a location note to your list, and you'll find it in no time!  Ebooks and audio books can also be cataloged with Book Collector.

I'm having so much fun, I think I'll try photos next.  Now if they would just come up with one for home videos...

We received this product free of charge in return for publishing our opinion.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Read more reviews about here:  Homeschool Crew

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring

We are having some crazy rain here on the homestead.  It's been raining a couple days a week all month.  Mabel the Marvelous Dancing Jersey Milk Cow has been through the fence twice, and is currently on timeout in her corral.  The roof is leaking all over my closet, that's what I get for a fear of heights.  On the other hand, we have some wonderful green grass coming up all over the place.  Need to fix the fence so we can let the animals out to graze on it.

Princess, the crea, comes to sniff my ears and my tea in the mornings, when the weather is nice enough to sit out in the back yard for a few minutes.

In the sewing room, we're replenishing the winter wardrobe with jeans, jammies and flannels.  In  the kitchen, we're trying new recipes for whole wheat cinnamon rolls - yummy - sourdough starter and hamburger buns.  We've sold out of oatmeal and castille soap, so it's into the workshop to make a couple batches for holiday orders.  We also need to finish getting our wood in for the winter.  There's nothing like a cozy fire in the woodstove to warm your soul on a gray day.

Hope you're getting set for an enjoyable winter, too!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Talking Fingers - Learning to Read, Write and Type


I taught myself how to type on dad's old Royal portable typewriter using an ancient college typing text. I was about fifteen years old and I remember how much it hurt my fingers to strike those keys. Now I tend to type too fast for the computer to keep up. (Ya, that's it, not my accuracy problem, the computer's.) My son has been using the computer, under supervision, of course, for at least two years already. So that makes him ten years ahead of me there. Still, he is benefiting by leaps and bounds with Talking Fingers.

Talking Fingers “Read, Write, Type” is an online program that teaches proper qwerty hand position and typing technique through interactive games and stories. At the same time, children learn letter sounds, spelling and reading, as well as composition. My son is reading well above his grade level, but does not get bored. He looks forward to his daily session on Talking Fingers and proudly prints out every certificate he earns.


There are 40 levels for students to work through, learning finger placement, building sentences and stories, with certificates awarded for every 4 letters mastered. The program keeps track of each student’s progress and starts them where they left off at the end of their last session. Parents can sign in and print out progress reports and see where their child is in the program. Students and parents sign in with separate usernames and passwords (student’s account is set up by the parent), so multiple children can each have their own record. Younger children may need help signing in, but should be able to work independently from there, as the animated characters guide them through everything.


Two options are available to take advantage of Talking Fingers. Online license for 1 student and parent is $39 and includes unlimited usage and printable reports. The Home Edition is $79 and is good for all children in the family, and has the same great games and interactive instruction as the online version PLUS progress reports, printable stories, clip art for stories, activity book, laminated practice keyboard and 2 sets of stickers. We test drove the online version and were very pleased, although being able to print out my son’s stories, which is a feature of the Home Edition, would be nice. For more keyboard-shy children the Home Edition would definitely be an advantage, though, as it includes a practice keyboard and other offline activities. Also, the Home Edition would be better for anyone with more than one child using the program, or families that would want to use it for several years, thereby saving the yearly license fee.

Once a child has mastered all the levels in Read, Write, Type, he is ready to move on to Word Qwerty, another program available from Talking Fingers. If you wish to purchase both programs, a K-4 Reading Bundle is available. Jingle Spells, songs to spell by, sounds like a great CD to have in the car for road trips.

One final feature of all these programs is the ESL option. Students learning English as a Second Language can click on a yellow balloon on screen for clarification of any portion of the program in Spanish, Arabic or Bahasa Melayu.

I am proud of my self-taught typing skills and look fondly at old portable typewriters in second hand stores, but I am ever so grateful for the light touch required of my computer keyboard. Talking Fingers has come along at just the right time for my son and I am glad that he is enthusiastic about Reading, Writing and Typing!

We received one free one year online license for the above product, for the purpose of using and commenting on it. No other compensation was received.

To see what other Homeschool Crew members are saying about Talking Fingers click:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Digital Frog - Luring Children Into Science

Digital Frog is a Canada based company that produces award winning CD's using virtual reality software.  The name derives from their first project, a virtual frog dissection.  We received their Digital Field Trip series to review and were, words fail me, delighted.  According to Digital Frog, "Our computer-based LEARNing tools:  •Lure the user into the subject
                                                   •Encourage inquiry, exploration and discovery
                                                   •Actively involve students in meaningful learning
                                                   •Reinforce with positive feedback
                                                   •Nourish a lifelong love of the subject." and they sure do a good job of it. 

We tried running the programs off the CD, but the pictures were very pixellated and we did not get the audio.  So we installed the CD on our hard drive and then proceeded to run the program and were quite pleased.  The program is user friendly and full of features.

Our first virtual Field Trip was to "The Wetlands".  This fit right into our Tour of the Continents, as we are currently studying North America, and the wetlands we toured was at Cloud Lake, in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada.  We were able to study the maps and geographically locate first Canada, then Ontario, the park, and Cloud Lake.  Once at the site, there were numerous "posts" to navigate and explore.  We could click on almost any word in the "field notes" for definition, and on blue highlighted words for expanded information.  Some screens have snapshots of plants, wildlife and landscape to click through, others have videos to watch.  The part with the wolf had a wolf howl audio that had us howling with delight!  We clicked on pictures to see larger versions.  In addition to each field trip, there are games and other activities.  We played the "Bog Food Game", which reinforced learning about the food chain and interdependence.  My second grader was able to come back and review his favorite parts of the field trips independently, so I venture to say that an average seven year old could enjoy each field trip with very little assisstance.  I found them so interesting that I really enjoyed sitting and doing some navigation myself. 

The Digital Frog Website also offers a FREE "Frogger Club", whose members can get free demos, discounts and extra printables, in addition to other goodies.  The Frog Blog, also freely available at the website, features additional pictures, posts, videos and more.

At $60 each or $125 for all three field trips on CD, this series is a bargain.  Each field trip can be a Unit Study in itself, with a little math supplementation.  They can be adapted for all ages kindergarten through high school, using more of the features for older children and less for younger.  Each field trip has loads of pictures, descriptions, videos, animation, interactive games and field notes.  They can be used year after year to add depth and breadth to your student's studies.

Other products available from Digital Frog are the frog dissection CD, Digital Frog 2.5 for $85, and Science Matrix: Cell Structure and Function CD for $40.  Keeping their focus on biology and ecology,  it's likely that Digital Frog will continue to make science addicting for students for years to come.

We received one CD with all 3 field trips for no charge, in exchange for publishing our opinions.  No other compensation was received.

See what other Homeschool Crewmates are saying about this product:  Digital Frog - Homeschool Crew

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salem Ridge Press - Where Books Live

My first encounter with Salem Ridge Press was Soldier Fritz, by Emma Leslie (softcover, $10.95, ages 8-adult).  I have to say I was disappointed.  An historical novel set in the sixteenth century, it makes frequent jabs at the Catholic church.  I am a big fan of historical fiction and thus encounter this frequently in my own reading, however, I don't feel it is appropriate for my child to be dealing with at this point in his character formation.  There is plenty of good, wholesome historical fiction on the market, whose authors don't have to stoop to denigrating the lifestyle or religion of others in order to make their point.  Books by Emma Leslie will not be making it into our reading lists or home library. 

That said, Salem Ridge Press has several other excellent titles and authors in its' inventory.

Down the Snow Stairs, by Alice Corkran, came as an e-book.  Thankfully, Apple has finally come up with an app for the Ipod Touch that will allow books to be read in book format, with pictures and everything, rather than the text-only-all-running-together that had previously made the Ipod undesireable to me as an ereader.  Down the Snow Stairs is a delightful journey through "Naughty Children Land" with Kitty, who feels very guilty about her younger brother's illness, and desperately wants to be with him on Christmas Eve.  Kitty learns important lessons about obedience, kindness, honesty and other moral values as she wanders through bogs, broken toys, and badly behaved children.  Finally, on Christmas Day, Kitty is reunited with her beloved Johnnie, who has survived his dreadful fever, and begs to hear all about Kitty's adventures. 

My son tends to get bored with moral stories, but this one really holds his attention.

The little outlaw particularly enjoyed hearing the adventures of Young Robin Hood, by George Manville Fenn, also in ebook form, and yes, also on the Ipod.  We have both these PDFs on the computer, but it's just so very convenient to take them with us and read them on the Ipod.  I still love the feel of a real book, but ereaders can carry a whole lot more of them than my purse can.  After being rescued from a bully by the Merry Men and spending a year in Sherwood Forest learning to hunt, track and shoot a bow and arrow, young Robin is returned to his father and peace and friendship reign once again in the land.  Robin's journey from spoiled young noble to confident, compassionate young man is splendidly told.  His father's joy at knowing his son is not dead as feared, leads him to humble himself and forsake all he owns, if necessary, just to see him again.

Although these two books are a bit above my second grader's reading level, I enjoyed reading them to him.  The PDF format is easy to download and read on the computer, as well most ereaders, and the price is reasonable.  For more information, including other titles, go to Salem Ridge Press, 4263 Salem Drive, Emmaus, PA  18049.

See what other Homeschool Crew members are saying about these books:  Salem Ridge Press - Homeschool Crew

I received one paperback and two ebooks in exchange for my honest use and review of these products.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Making Math Fun - Pyramath Cards

Making Math Fun

We've been having a blast with Pyramath Cards.  My second grade son is working on addition and subtraction right now, and of the several games that can be played with these cards, the one we play over and over is the basic 7 card pyramid.  It goes like this:  lay 7 cards face up, side by side.  Each player works their side of the line to form a pyramid by playing a card on top of pairs of side by side cards in the line, that equal the sum or difference of the 2 side by side cards.  The first person to complete their pyramid wins!  Multiplication and division can also be added into the game for older children.

Pyramath Cards

Pyramath, available from I See Cards for $6.95, comes complete with everything you need to start having lots more fun with math.  The deck of cards, numbered 0-9, instruction booklet detailing various uses and several games, and access to online play.  Another thing I like about the cards is that they each display the numerals in standard, Roman numeral, Arabic and Chinese.  The number words are also written out in English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Chinese.  Languages being another subject I would like to incorporate more into our learning program.

Detail of card with numeral, languages and symbols

Pyramath is designed for grades Kindergarten and up, I can testify that I am having fun with it myself, so I am sure it would be great review and practice for High Schoolers.  However, I See Cards also has 3 other great games available:  Fractazmic, which helps teach and review addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions; Prime Bomb, which covers prime numbers and their operations; and a game for younger children called I See Cards, which introduces basic numbers and words (English and Spanish) with pictures.  Go to I See Cards for more info on these products.

Cards 0 through 9

I put together a "carschool" bag this year, as we are frequently on the go, and the Pyramath cards are right in there with the audio books and the field guides.  We frequently use the game as a warmup for our math lesson, but my son likes to work ahead as much as he can also, so after correcting the day's math work, if we have a few extra moments, we will take out the Pyramath cards for a few games.

For the same price as other educational card games on the market, this one stands alone in bringing new enthusiasm to math teachers and students, at least at the homestead school!  Although you can play for free online at the website, we highly recommend buying the game for one on one play.  It's a barrel of laughs!

Click here to see what the Homeschool Crew Blog has to say about Pyramath.

Disclaimer:  We received the above product free of charge, in return for using it and telling about our experience with it.  No other compensation was received.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Getting Ready For School

Unlike many homeschooling families, we have NOT started our school year yet.  Our books finally arrived last week, and I have been reviewing the lesson plans, looking over the books, and getting supplies together.  My son, on the other hand, got hold of his new books and never looked back.  He has been reading and working through any and all assignments he can do on his own...would that such enthusiasm continued through the rest of the school year!

Here you can see his new desk, which was given to us by a friend who had no use for it.  You can see his new books all in a neat stack.  His drawers are organized too...for the moment;)

Just proof for later in the year that, yes, at one time we COULD actually see the top of the desk!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Little Princess

Our new arrival

We got home from church Sunday to find a little surprise in the back yard.  Well, little compared to her mother.  A surprise baby llama!  We certainly weren't expecting her, but what a treat;)  Momma and Poppa got out together last summer and apparently didn't waste any time.  Li'l Homesteader immediately named her Princess.  And that she is.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blog Walk Week 2

More fantastic blogs from fellow homeschoolers and bloggers on The Homeschool Crew for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  Join me in meeting new people, getting new ideas, and enjoying others' experiences;)

1. Reaping a Harvest
2. Pink and Orange Coffee
3. Live, Laugh, Learn
4. Mrs. Mandy's Musings
5. The Fantastic Five
6. Refined Metals Academy
7. Just A Moment In Time
8. Providence Farm
9. My Journey
10. Petra School

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Travel the World!

What better way to spend the long, hot summer than to "Travel the World"?!

We're still on summer break, but as we gather things together for our school year, we can't resist taking a peek inside.  This is my first review as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, and luckily, I am familiar with the format of this unit study, having used one in this same style last year.

  This is an excellent mini-unit study that provides an introduction to world geography. It starts with basic information about maps and the globe, explanations of longitude and latitude and compass orientation. Next the student is oriented to the continents and oceans, and finally there is a brief study of each of the continents in turn. This mini-unit study comes at a timely moment, as my second grader will be "touring" the continents this year as part of his geography/social studies curriculum. We had just started experimenting with lapbooking at the end of last year, so we are looking forward to the lapbooking activities included and exploring new ideas for our lapbook for this study.

Designed for grades 1-8, Travel the World also includes an additional high-school expansion section, to make it suitable for all ages. Links in the text connect to websites for further explanation of new terms and concepts, such as equator, axis, Australia, Africa as well as games and activities related to the content. Printable activities include a Word Scramble, Fill in the Blanks, puzzles, and acrostic. Two printable lapbooking activities are included, with links to helpful info on completing a lapbook, even if you've never made one before. Numerous coloring and copywork pages are built in, both manuscript and cursive. Recipes are included for kitchen learning, also answer keys and additional resources.

Although this can be used as a "print and plop" unit study, we have found in using other works by this publisher, that the internet links, which include videos and various educational websites, can be quite helpful and enriching, providing a break from typical seatwork.

Travel the World can be used as a stand-alone substitute for your regular curriculum, as it covers nearly all the required subjects. You may still need to use your regular math book, unless you are particularly talented at putting together related math activities for your student. Also, music and foreign language are not built into this particular unit study. Bible quotes are liberally dispersed throughout the pages, but aside from that, there is no specific religious objective, so parents can tailor further religious connections to their own beliefs. Reading, spelling, writing, and language arts are covered through the text, links, and printable worksheets. Science and history are fulfilled in the text and links, and art in the printables and lapbooking activities. Needless to say, this is primarily a geography study, so the social studies/geography requirements encompass the entire unit.

This e-book can be purchased on it's own to supplement the Old Schoolhouse Planner.  The planner is not necessary to use this unit study.  Other modules available include Let Freedom Ring-June 2009 module, Let's be Scientists-December 2008 module, and many more.
 Read the Homeschool Crew's blog on Travel the World

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC

The SchoolHouse Planner - Travel the World! (June 2010 Module)

$7.95 per module

Disclaimer:  This product was received free of charge for review purposes.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Old Schoolhouse

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has enlisted Mrs. D to help review homeschooling curriculum this year.  I am on the "younger crew" (I so like the sound of that!), reviewing selections for preschool through elementary ages, though some material may be modified/appropriate for older students as well.  I am really excited about this. 

I am starting my "blogwalk" this week, meeting some of my fellow homeschoolers/reviewers through their blogs.  Like to join me?  Here's who I'm checking out this week:

1.  Second star to the right and straight on til morning
2. Surviving the testosterone
3.  Family style school
4.  School around the table
5.  1628 The story of the Goebels 5
6.  Morris family madness
7.  Homeschool-musings
8.  Homeschooling (and then some!)
9.  Heartfelt homeschooling
10. following Him home

I hope you'll join me in meeting some interesting homeschoolers and exploring great homeschooling tools and curriculum;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meet the New Girls - Freedom and Liberty?

Just in time to keep the goat's milk soap in production (I used the last of my stock of goat milk in the Jasmine Rose soap, available now enter Freedom and "Liberty", two lovely Nubian mix does with prolific milk supply.  We are already restocking for soapmaking, not to mention enjoying the fresh milk, cheese and yogurt ourselves. 

Ah, but a bit about their names...Freedom is so called because of her determination to jump fences.  She will stay in her cozy stall until such time as I am willing to supervise her in the yard.  "Liberty" came to us unnamed (she was called Goaty-girl).  I really was thinking of naming her Liberty, to go with Freedom, but as that may just have been inviting trouble, I agreed to my son's choice of "Gloves", in honor of his brand new batting gloves which he was so enamored of.  Gloves, in contrast to Freedom, is very good-natured and stands calmly for milking, producing about a half-gallon a day out of just one side.  Her other side is not producing, perhaps due to some injury when she was younger.

Freedom, on the other hand, milked fine on the first day, producing a gallon of white, creamy milk.  On the second day the testing began.  Wrestling a gallon of milk out of a dramatically inclined goat is no mean feat, and by the end of the day I was beat.  The purchase of some sweet feed for the next round calmed her down a bit and hopefully milking time will soon be, once again, a relaxing experience for all involved.  Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Expedition Australia!

"Expedition Australia"
Download n Go Series
by Amanda Bennett and The Old Schoolhouse
P.O. Box 8426, Gray, TN 37615

Just download this ebook and head for Australia because everything's ready to go. Laid out in a five-day format, all links and activities are included for lapbooking, videos, suggested books and worksheets. Reading, spelling, vocabulary, science, geography, art, math and social studies are incorporated each day, along with a little music and fun and games. Did I mention FUN?! This Unit Study is best employed using the PDF to access all the links, an internet connection, and a printout of the ebook for student activities.
Designed for ages 4-10, older students can use it as a basis for a more detailed study, taking the science and research a bit further and supplementing grade level math. Minimal supplies are required for the lapbooking activities - glue, scissors, pencils and markers or crayons. We used staples instead of the brads for making the mini-books. I wanted to try loading it on the Itouch, to make it even more portable, but didn't get to it.

My six year old son is not very fussy with his artwork, but he did enjoy mapping out the Great Barrier reef, Canberra, Perth, the Great Victorian Desert and the Oceans surrounding the continent. Uluru Rock in particular made an impression on him, maybe because he liked to draw it. Koalas were, by far, his favorite animal of the week, and he now understands words like marsupial, aborigine, outback and constellation. He enjoyed learning how to read the thermometer and more clock-reading practice as we researched and compared times and temperatures in Australia with our own town. We also marvelled at the different stars visible in the Australian night sky as compared to what we see here in Arizona. Our nature walks took on new meaning as we compared our high-desert land with parts of the Australian outback.

The Download and Go series is the most user-friendly of the Unit Studies we have tried to date. There are links on each page for activities included in the back of the ebook, with a link from the activity back to the page you were on. There are also family fun/party ideas for an end-of-unit celebration, as well as a Certificate of Exploration. Extra study links are also included at the end of the unit. At only $7.95 for over 70 pages of fun learning, we are looking forward to trying out some of the other 15 titles in the series.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Wanna Be a Firefighter!

This past month at the Homestead School we've been changing things up a bit.  We've taken a break from our normal classroom routine to do some in-depth studies on individual topics.  This is called the Unit Study method, and incoporating the 3R's, science and religion into a Unit Study is quite a challenge.  Luckily, we had some help from our friends at The Old Schoolhouse, and we would like to share our experience with the curriculum we obtained from them for our adventure.

"When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Firefighter"

Wanna Be Series - Ebook, PDF

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
P.O. Box 8426, Gray, TN 37615

Being a newbie at the unit study method, I printed out this colorful Ebook and just started right in with my 6 year old son. There is a LOT of reading at the beginning, which I now realize I should have broken up into several daily sections and interspersed with the other subjects and internet activities. Needless to say, our first run was not as fun as it could have been. After I took a better look at the table of contents, I began marking different pages to do each day for math, science, copywork, etc., and the unit proceeded more smoothly. The text provides a balance of reading, vocabulary, spelling, ASL finger spelling, math, science, social studies, geography, handwriting and scripture verses.

We learned the history of firefighting from bucket brigades to the early days of fire insurance.  A firefighter tells what it's like to work an average shift, as well as how to become a firefighter and how much firefighters get paid in different parts of the United States.  We also learned about Wilshire the Firehouse Dog, and the role dogs play in helping firefighters.  We learned more about robots and robotic arms, which we had opportunity to work with on a previous field trip.  We did not have a chance to build our own robotic arm model, but the supplies were simple and we did have them on hand.

I am also a newbie at lapbooking, and did not think to make a lapbook to go with this unit. It does not include suggestions or activities for lapbooking, but it would be easy enough to modify for that activity and I definitely recommend it. Especially for active, curious 6 year old boys. It breaks up the tedium of reading and worksheets and gets them cutting, pasting, coloring, drawing, and creating, thereby more actively participating in the learning process.

Although this series is written for ages 4-10, it contains so much detailed information that it could be easily modified for older students. We felt the need to supplement this particular unit with extra math, grade level reading with some of the suggested books, and searching you-tube or elsewhere for appropriate videos.

All basic materials are included with "I Want to be a Firefighter". If desired, additional materials can be gathered together for suggested science projects, activities and lapbooking. Quizzes, puzzles, coloring pages, worksheets and answer keys are included. The internet is not necessary to get the full benefit of this unit study, but makes it more interesting. Useful websites are listed in the back of the ebook; one could also search for additional sites, videos and activities to liven up the presentation. Parents will want to acquire appropriate supplementary books from library, arrange a possible field trip to a fire station, or a visit with firefighters.

With over 70 pages of detailed information, this Unit Study is well worth the price of $8.95.

Other titles in the series:
Veterinarian, Chef, Military, Pilot, Doctor, Police Officer, Missionary, Artist, Farmer

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Field Trip to the Ballet

Back in December, the Homestead school went on a field trip to see Ballet Arizona perform the second act of "The Nutcracker". It was such a treat that Mrs. D frequently found herself blinking back tears, thankful that the performance hall was dark. (Maybe she needs to get out more!) Yards of floating fabrics, graceful dancers, music by the Phoenix Symphony, all live on stage right in front of us! At the price of ballet tickets we would never have been able to indulge in this particular field trip had it not been for a special student matinee offered by Ballet Arizona specifically for schools (including homeschoolers) which allowed us to obtain tickets for $4 a seat. Students watched the dancers warm up and the crew set up the stage prior to the performance, with a wonderful commentary provided by Paris Wilcox, Education Coordinator.

Many students of the School of Ballet Arizona performed in the show, as well as in all the public performances. Another unique aspect of this performance was a question and answer session with the dancers afterwards. Several roaming microphones amplified questions from the audience which were answered by the dancers and Mr. Wilcox. Also, we were educated about the construction, use and care of pointe shoes, the special shoes ballerinas wear to dance on the tips of their toes.

We also downloaded a free study guide that assists in explaining the history of ballet and the origins of Ballet Arizona. It includes a synopsis of The Nutcracker and its composer, Tchaikovsky. Following that are tips for preparing students, watching the ballet, behavior during the show and discussion starters for afterwards. Even a glossary of ballet terms.

With the Homestead always on a tight budget, this offer was an incredible find. We were able to stay with friends overnight in Phoenix, which was a great help, not having to get up at 3a.m. to feed and make the 180 mile drive, hoping to arrive on time - yech! As it was, we arrived at Symphony Hall refreshed and ready to enjoy a wonderful bit of culture - The Ballet.