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!!