Tag Archives: homeschooling

Homeschool Mosaic Review: Apologia Picture Book “A Light for My Path”

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review disclaimer1We love picture books in this house, so I was glad to get the chance to check out a new one from Apologia called A Light for My Path. Written by Davis Carman and beautifully illustrated by Alice Ratterree, this ABC book is based on Psalm 119.

A Light for My Path picture book

A Light for My Path picture book by Apologia

Both of my kids already recognize the letters of the alphabet, but they still enjoyed naming each corresponding animal or plant as we got to it (and learned a few new ones as well!). Additionally, the book teaches both uppercase and lowercase forms of the letters, so it’s a good book to reinforce that concept. Their favorite part was looking for the animal from the previous spread on the current page.

L for Light with a Ladybug (and a Koala from the previous spread)

L for Light with a Ladybug (and a Koala from the previous spread)

After the ABC pictures that describe attributes of God’s Word and Law, A Light for My Path contains Psalm 119 divided into individual stanzas that start with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I pointed out the picture and name of the Hebrew letter at the top of each page as I read them to my kids, and noted how the letters looked different than our English alphabet.

Psalm 119 with Hebrew letters

Psalm 119 with Hebrew letters

What I love:

  • Although it’s a paperback, the book is well made and the thick pages seem like they will hold up pretty well.
  • The illustrations are colorful and engaging, and my children loved searching out the different animals throughout the book.

Potential pitfalls:

  • I was expecting a bit more text in the main part of the ABC section, rather than a repetitious phrase and a one-word attribute. I think I had initially expected the verses from the Psalm to be incorporated on the ABC pictures, instead of at the end. But the book states in its introduction (a “how to use this book” section, essentially) that this is intentional and I can see how this approach would work well for young kids still learning the alphabet.

If you’re interested in checking out A Light for My Path (available here for $14), there’s a bigger sample here on Apologia’s site. And read more reviews from the Mosaic team at the Mosaic Reviews blog!

Homeschool Mosaic Review: The Classical Historian Medieval History Memory Game

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review disclaimer1Family Game Night. Does that conjure up memories of endless Monopoly games or charades? A child who can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders? We have a lot of great games that we enjoy bringing out to play as a family. My husband recently taught our daughter how to play mancala, and now she’s beating him at it! 🙂 She positively loves just about any type of game, and especially matching games. So when Homeschool Mosaic Reviews was offered the chance to check out a memory game from The Classical Historian, I was pretty excited. I wasn’t sure if the material would be too far over her head, but since it was a game, I was willing to take a chance. And I’m so glad I did!

Fresh out of the box: The Classical Historian Medieval History Memory game cards and instruction sheet

Fresh out of the box: The Classical Historian Medieval History Memory game cards and instruction sheet

The Classical Historian is a family-run company that sells history curriculum for middle and high schoolers and games for all ages. I got the chance to review one of their memory games, Medieval History (available here for $14.95). Other games include Ancient History and American History Memory, and a Go Fish game in the same three time periods, for the same price. The Go Fish games looked fun also, but with a nonreader and an emerging reader in my home, the memory game was the way to go.

Medieval History Memory contains 64 game play cards and two sets of four category cards (Europe, the Americas, the Far East and Arabia). Game set-up and play is like any other Memory game on the market. Set up the 64 cards in a grid formation, face down, and players take turns flipping over two cards at a time, looking for matches. The player with the most matches at the end of the game is the winner.

Game play is ready to begin!

Game play is ready to begin!

The cards are nice and sturdy cardboard (so is the storage box), and the pictures on them are high quality. I like the variety in them, both in terms of subject and in medium (some are photographs, some are illustration). The Medieval History set covers several people, places, events and concepts from Europe, the Americas, the Far East and Arabia, although the highest concentration of cards fall in the Europe category.

The cards contain a great variety of subjects in Medieval History: people, places, concepts. In addition to classic Memory, game players can also play a Categories game and match cards to regions.

The cards contain a great variety of subjects in Medieval History: people, places, concepts. In addition to classic Memory, game players can also play a Categories game and match cards to regions.

We played Medieval History Memory as a family and had a great time. My husband and I were able to tell a little bit about each card as it was drawn, and I love that the game provides an informal and fun way for the kids to learn about important people and places in history. My daughter drew the card for William Shakespeare, and as soon as I read his name, she got excited. She knew who he was because we were currently reading a Magic Tree House book about Shakespeare. “He is the man who did the play with Jack and Annie!” she said. I can see us playing this game again and again, and learning more a little each time. I’m also pretty interested in the American History matching game; I’m putting that on my wish list for when we start an America unit in our homeschool.

What I love:

  • The game uses lots of different depictions on the cards: photographs of real places and art, illustrations, etc and are well made.
  • The pictures spark great questions and provide a jumping off point for further research and learning, even though we aren’t doing any “formal” history lesson right now.

Potential pitfalls:

  • The game says it’s for players age 3 and up. But even though my 4-year-old made the first match on his first try (there’s luck for you!), he didn’t stick with us in the game for very long. Maybe if we had done a smaller number of cards than the whole 64, he would’ve been more interested. He’s not much of a Memory fan in general though, and he did pipe in with questions and want to see the pictures when others made matches, so even with smaller kids who may not want to play the game, there are still lots of fun ways to use the cards for learning.

Check out The Classical Historian’s web site for this and several other games that are fun for the whole family! Also, the Mosaic Reviews Facebook page is hosting a FB party for The Classical Historian on Friday, June 28, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT. Feel free to pop in and learn more about the games–and maybe even win something!

Made a match of Monastery! Now it's your turn!

Made a match of Monastery! Now it’s your turn!

Homeschool Mosaic Review: Apologia Picture Book How Do We Know God is Really There?

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review disclaimer1Our homeschool year has been finished for a few weeks now, so I’ve been away from the computer for a bit as we enjoy our free time together as a family. But I’m back with a couple of Homeschool Mosaic Reviews in the next week or so, including this picture book from Apologia that tackles a tough question: How Do We Know God is really There?

My kids love sitting out under the stars and listening to their dad tell them about what they are seeing in the sky (he loves astronomy!), so I was excited when Mosaic Reviews offered the chance for me to review this picture book about a boy and his father talking about the evidence of God’s existence through His creation of the cosmos. It seemed like it would fit in with the talks they have already had.

Reading Time: How Do We Know God is Really There?

Reading Time: How Do We Know God is Really There?

How Do We Know God is Really There? by Melissa Cain Travis is the first in a series of picture books “designed to introduce kids to important questions of the Christian faith,” according to Apologia’s site. In the picture book (available here for $16), Thomas and his father are enjoying viewing God’s creation through a telescope, but what he sees prompts Thomas to go even deeper with his questions, because a friend told him God didn’t exist. His dad converses with Thomas to explain about how science proves God’s existence because something (the universe) cannot be created from nothing. 

I’m not sure the science part of the book quite resonated with my kids yet; my 4-year-old in particular was antsy before we got to the end of the book. But it did prompt some good discussions, and the kids loved the pictures. They thought skateboarding on the moon and racing around Saturn would be fun, and they laughed hysterically at Thomas’ poor cat.

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Thomas scares his poor cat!

 

What I love:

  • The book is well made. The hardback cover and thick pages seem like they will hold up well, which is important in my house where my kids don’t treat books as nicely as their mom (yet).
  • The colorful and fun illustrations by Christopher Voss engaged my kids and they liked to leaf through the book and talk about what they saw in the pictures.

Potential pitfalls:

  • Even though it’s a picture book, some of the content seemed just a bit over the heads of my 4 and 6 year olds. However, I think it’s a great conversation starter even for the younger ages and talk with them about the subject in ways closer to their comprehension level. For those with a bit more science background, I don’t think this would be a problem at all.

If you’re interested in this fun and educational book, there’s a bigger sample here on Apologia’s site–go check it out!

Homeschool Mosaics Review: Ooka Island Adventure Reading Program {+Coupon Code!}

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review disclaimer1Over the past several weeks, Homeschool Mosaic Reviewers have had the chance to use a pretty fun tool for reading: Ooka Island Adventure. Ooka Island’s program is geared toward pre-K to second graders and teaches phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Due to the nature of the program, children are introduced to a new skill only when they have mastered the previous one.

Ooka Island is divided into three sections, called the Learning Flow Cycle by the creators. Guided Play focuses on phonic development through skill-building instructional activities;  the e-Reader book series focus on fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension; and  Free Play allows children to play activities that reinforce what they have learned, reread e-books or just do fun games. Guided Play lasts for 20 minutes, the e-Reader for up to 10 minutes and the Free Play for about 8 minutes. The structure and sequence of these different sections help the children stay engaged in the program.

Ooka Island's cast of colorful characters

Ooka Island’s cast of colorful characters

My kindergartener (age 6) is already a reader, but she’s a brand new one and still learning. I liked that we could use Ooka Island to reinforce concepts she’s already learned and to improve her reading fluency and comprehension. She loved playing all the games, unlocking various rewards after completing certain levels and enjoyed listening to and reading the stories. Her favorite games were the soccer ball one and the submarine one, where the pigs are dropped into the water. My 4-year-old also used the program, but his attention span for the game was not as long as my daughter’s. He also had a more trouble maneuvering the mouse in the game, but as he practiced more, I could definitely tell he improved in that area. All the games are point-and-click based, so it was more of a physical skill of moving the mouse for him to learn than the interface being difficult. He would only play for about 10 minutes or so at a time; my daughter could probably spend all day on Ooka Island if I let her!

Ooka's books follow the adventures of Kayla, Jaiden and Boo.

Ooka’s books follow the adventures of Kayla, Jaiden and Boo.

What I love:

  • Ooka Island’s colorful graphics and fun games entertain my kids as well as help teach them phonics and reading skills and computer skills.
  • Because it’s not a streaming online program, I don’t have to worry about either of my young children accidentally surfing to something I wouldn’t want them to.
  • The Ooka Lighthouse assessment on the web site helps me keep track of which skills the kids are learning and their percentage of correct answers in the games.
  • The freebies online, including motivational tools like certificates and book paths to track your child’s progress.

Potential pitfalls:

  • A few times, the program would freeze up, and once or twice it kicked my child off in the middle of play. Part of the reason for this might have been our computer, which has been locking up more over the past month. They didn’t seem to lose their progress, however.
  • Due to the way the game is set up, players have to wait until they progressed in the game to certain points and unlocked features and places to use during free play. Not a big deal, but it took some convincing of my four-year-old who desperately wanted to go to the volcano first thing. 🙂
Ooka Island's map filled with areas to explore

Ooka Island’s map filled with areas to explore

This was the first time I’ve used a computer program in our schooling, and it’s been a good experience so far. If you’ve got a child in the 3-7 age range, or a slightly older child who could use reinforcement in reading skills, I invite you to check out Ooka Island. For home and homeschool editions, you can pay monthly ($12.95 for 1 student/$19.95 for up to 4) or annually ($124.95 for 1/$149.95 for up to 4). There is also a school edition.

Ooka Island has given Mosaic Reviewers a coupon code good for 30 percent off your annual or monthly subscription! Offer valid until June 1, 2013. Simply copy and paste this URL when you order:

http://offers.ookaisland.com/inblog?purl=wnOve

Edit: More Ooka Island experiences at the Mosaic Reviews blog!

Homeschool Mosaic Review: Spanish for You!

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I’ll never forget the day when, out of the blue, my 3 or 4 year old daughter counted to 10 in Spanish. Her pronunciation was a bit off in some cases, but the intent was very clear. I was so proud of her–and so astonished! I wasn’t teaching her another language. But, as it turns out, she was internalizing more of those Dora the Explorer shows on Netflix and Dora books that we were reading more than I realized. During that time, she also picked up a few more random words, which was fine by me, but other than clarifying pronunciation now and again, or refreshing her memory on what the words meant, I didn’t really push her to learn more. At her age, I just didn’t see the need.

So I admit that I was hesitant when asked to review the Spanish for You! language curriculum for Mosaic Reviews, because my daughter’s only in kindergarten. She’s still learning how to read and write in our own language; I didn’t want to pressure her at this point in trying to learn another. I looked over the curriculum I was sent, the Fiestas package, and was a bit overwhelmed with how I would present this material to her. Verb conjugations, vocabulary lists, tests, etc. There are lots of worksheets, but they are text-only and really aimed for a solid reader. All of this makes complete sense, because Spanish for You!’s curriculum is geared for third through eighth graders, not six-year-olds.

s4ulogoSpanish for You! is an affordable, flexible and effective curriculum designed to put your children or students on the path to foreign language fluency. Spanish teacher Debbie Annett created the program to help elementary and middle school students learn key language components through a themed approach.  Spanish for You:

  • Allows students at all grade levels to learn the same material at their own pace.
  • Provides lesson plans, worksheets, audio files, flash cards and other activities to present the material in a fun, interactive manner at a low price point.
  • Builds on material already covered in each book with new vocabulary and concepts, yet also reinforces that which has already been learned in other themes.
  • Has already been tested in a school environment prior to its sale, and many students who have been studying with the program are able to start high school Spanish early or at an advanced level.

I’ve got a pretty good–if a bit distant now–background in Spanish. I took four years in high school, plus a few semesters in college. Most of my classes were taught only in Spanish (unless something was so brand new, it required English explanations). After awhile, it wasn’t really intimidating; I loved my high school classes because the teachers made it fun. I decided, obvious as it is, that was the key in this situation as well. Take what I could from the curriculum and make it a fun mini-unit about Spanish for my kindergartener.

I chose several flash cards from a couple of different lessons in the Fiestas package, and focused on learning just the vocabulary and making the overall experience fun. The flash cards are simple black-and-white line drawings. If they look a little childish, that’s because they are drawn by children. This was intentional, in order to appeal more to the student demographic as well as help keep costs of the overall curriculum down.

For the Fiesta de Cumpleanos lesson (birthday party), my daughter and I created a little story out of the flash cards. The repetition of it helped her identify and learn the Spanish vocabulary. After she had memorized the words and their meanings, I wrote out the story, leaving blanks for her to fill in the vocabulary flash cards. I read the red parts of the sentence, let her pick out the right flash card and say the Spanish word, and then paste the card in the right spot. I added the Spanish words under the flash cards in blue, although at this age, I’m not expecting her to write or spell out the vocabulary.

A fill-in-the-flashcard story about the boy's fiesta

A fill-in-the-flashcard story about the boy’s fiesta

I also incorporated learning the names of some colors in Spanish with this theme, and we listened to the Happy Birthday songs in Spanish from the audio collection in the curriculum. I really, really wanted to make a pinata (also one of the vocabulary words), but haven’t been able to fit it in our schedule yet. I’m putting it on the list of possibilities for Cinco de Mayo. Even though pinatas are definitely more birthday party oriented than Cinco de Mayo.

Another lesson in the Fiestas package is Feria de Abril, or April Fair. This is an annual celebration in Seville, Spain, that lasts about a week and is a time filled with food, flamenco and fun. Aspects of it seem pretty similar to a state fair here in the United States, especially the amusement park rides and the inclusion of animals in the festivities. Two of the vocabulary words for the Feria lesson are paella and churros con chocolate, so we made both of those foods during our study. (Here’s how our paella turned out.) My daughter helped mix up the churros batter, and even though I didn’t have the correct pastry bag tip, the churros were still tasty even if they weren’t quite the right shape.

Churros awaiting their fate: dusted with powdered sugar, sprinkled with cinnamon or dunked in warm chocolate? Would all three be a bit much?

Churros awaiting their fate: dusted with powdered sugar, sprinkled with cinnamon or dunked in warm chocolate? Would all three be a bit much?

In addition to making the fair foods, I found a couple of videos of the most recent Feria de Abril on YouTube (like this one, for example), because this year’s fair was going on right during the review period. I pointed out the horses and the flamenco dresses and style of dance (both of which are vocabulary words in the lesson). When the video was over, my four-year-old son asked, “After Daddy gets home, can we go there?” I told him I really wished we could. 🙂 I think he was excited by the glimpses of the fair rides more than anything else.

For a musical aspect, we also made homemade castanets to go along with the April Fair theme. The vocabulary list included this word, and I liked the chance to include a musical craft in the unit. I followed this tutorial on Education.com. TG used markers and colored paper to decorate thin cardboard, and then I superglued bottle caps on. We also painted the tops of the bottle caps to cover up the root beer logo, but that proved a bad idea because it muffled the sound a little bit. And the paint chipped off anyway. But the kids have had fun clicking and clacking away with these guys.

Quick and easy castanets with cardboard and bottle caps make a fun and musical craft

Quick and easy castanets with cardboard and bottle caps make a fun and musical craft

What I love:

  • The native speaker audio. I think that’s a good resource for in-home foreign language curricula, because it helps emphasize correct pronunciation and allows students to hear the words as they would if they were in a region where the language is spoken.
  • The price: around $65 for a year’s worth of language learning for multiple children and multiple age groups–and maybe even less than that depending on your family’s needs.
  • The freebies offered on the Spanish for You web site are great additional material or can provide a starting point with colors, numbers and other basics.

Potential pitfalls:

  • It took me awhile to understand the file naming system of the lessons and worksheets. I received an all digital package, so I am unsure whether or not this is a difficulty in the physical book. If I were regularly using it with age-appropriate students, I would probably reorganize them into something that fit my personal system better.
  • While I do like the themes that the curriculum is divided into and the flexibility inherent in that, I wondered if it would be difficult to jump into for someone with little-to-no background in the language. Perhaps for the future, the company might consider a beginners package of some sort to help newbies. The freebies offered online do cover some of those initial basic need-to-knows.

Update: Debbie from Spanish for You! has reorganized the worksheet files for the Fiestas and Estaciones themes into folders by grade level, and put audio files into folders according to lessons. These changes should make navigating the information much easier for those who purchase the curriculum from this point on. Thank you, Spanish for You!, for your excellent customer service!

As you can see, I used the Spanish for You! curriculum as a starting point to introduce my daughter to some new Spanish vocabulary, culture and experiences. For a kindergartener, though, that’s pretty cool. And it’s something I probably would not have done had I not been reviewing this curriculum, so despite my initial hesitancy, I’m glad I got the chance to do both. For those of you with children in the recommended age group, third through eighth graders, I think Spanish for You! is worth checking out to see if it will fit your needs for a foreign language curriculum.

 

Edit 5/03: Learn how other reviewers used the Fiestas and Estaciones (Seasons) packages from Spanish for You! at the Mosaic Reviews blog.

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Homeschool Mosaic Review: Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell

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It’s so hard for me to believe, but in just a few short weeks, this first year of homeschooling will be over. Kindergarten will be in the books. I don’t want to contemplate that too long, no matter how much I’m looking forward to a break over the summer! 🙂 With that said, I am already thinking about next year and what school will look like for us. I feel like I still have been pretty disorganized over the year, despite my best intentions. I started late in the game in terms of planning, so I am hoping with more of a headstart, things will run more smoothly and I will feel like I have a better overall plan and goals. Plus, our state homeschool convention is next month, and we definitely want to have a better grasp on what we’re looking for when we hit up that massive vendor hall.

With all of that running through my mind the past couple weeks, I was pleased to have the chance to review Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner as I look ahead to the 2013-2014 school year. Created by Debra Bell, this planner (as well as the student planners also available) doesn’t just help you plan out your homeschool courses. Its goal is to help make you aware of God’s faithfulness and activity in your homeschool journey, and help your children become independent learners.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planners from Debra Bell and Apologia

The Ultimate Homeschool Planners from Debra Bell and Apologia

For a newbie like me, I appreciated the user guide in the first 10 or so pages of the planner that detailed how to effectively put it to work for you and your family. After that comes the one-year planning grid to help you get all the holidays, birthdays and already set vacations and activities written in. Once you can see all of those at a glance, you can fill out each month’s calendar with the pertinent priorities for those weeks. The heart of the book, the weekly planner section, devotes two double-page spreads to each week. There’s a page for Sundays, where you can keep track of your personal Bible study and spiritual growth; a page to record the week’s memorable moments to enable you to reflect on the successes in your students and fun times with your family; and two pages for the week’s schedule. The non-detailed six by six grid enables great customization in terms of number of students, days of the week and subjects. Additional features include sections for recording grades, field trips, reading lists and a year-end review.

The year-at-a-glance is a helpful tool to get an overall perspective of your year.

The year-at-a-glance is a helpful tool to get an overall perspective of your year.

I filled in as many dates as I could think of for the year-at-a-glance calendar, and then used the resources pages to make notes of curriculum I need to purchase or want to look more into for next year. I also utilized the character and academic goals pages to help me determine what we need to focus on during our next school year. I have to admit I didn’t really do much overarching goal planning this year. With a year’s experience under my belt, I know more in how to approach this facet of homeschooling and I think this planner section in particular will be quite helpful in keeping the next school year on a better track. Also, I appreciate having a place each week to write out spiritual struggles and growth.

Each section has lots of room to help you in your planning.

Each section has lots of room to help you in your planning.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ($28 retail) is part of Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planning System that also includes two student planners ($19 retail each). I was also sent a copy of the Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, which is geared for older elementary and middle school age children. There’s also a teen version for junior/senior high schoolers. The student planner also has monthly at-a-glance calendars and a weekly schedule broken out by day where kids can write in their assignments. There are also sections to record activites, books, grades and other notes, plus several pages filled with helpful hints and information for math, science, English and history. With my only student a kindergartener, I was not able to fully review the use of the student planner, but I plan to bring it out again in a couple years when she’s old enough. It’s definitely geared toward older children, as the younger elementary ages don’t have the necessary skills to use it effectively. I can definitely see how the design of the planner promotes more independence in kids and aids them to take responsibility of their own work.

The interior of the student planner allows for plenty of room for students to keep track of their school assignments and activities.

The interior of the student planner allows for plenty of room for students to keep track of their school assignments and activities.

What I love:

  • The year-at-a-glance grid really helps to put the whole year into perspective, in terms of when to take breaks and what else is going on in your family life besides school.
  • The planner is made of flexible and sturdy (and cute!) material, with two pockets to help you keep track of loose papers that might otherwise end up lost or trashed.
  • The amount of space for weekly memorable moments, as I can be kind of wordy :-), and the large weekly scheduling grid allows me to be detailed with lessons. (For those with larger families, however, space might be more of a problem.)
  • The student planner’s helpful hints (pages with things like measurements and math charts, maps, history timeline and grammar rules) is a great tool for students–and moms, too, who have been out of practice for awhile!
The helpful hints section in the student planner contains information about various subjects, including math, science, history and English.

The helpful hints section in the student planner contains information about various subjects, including math, science, history and English.

Potential pitfalls:

  • I understand why the planner is undated, as it allows much more flexibility, but I am finding that I prefer all of that to be taken care of beforehand. I might be in the minority, however, as I have seen many people talk about this feature as one of their favorites. I also would prefer the weekly schedule sections to be placed after each month, rather than having to flip back and forth from where all the monthly calendars are to the current week’s pages.
  • The lack of an attendance record is not a dealbreaker for me, but given the thoroughness of the rest of the planner, it’s a curious omission. I would find it a very useful feature to have.

If you’re looking for a planner to help guide you in your homeschool journey, check out the Ultimate ones on Apologia’s web site. They’ve even got some pdf samples to help you out. Or discover more about Apologia and these planners at the MR/Apologia Facebook party on Friday, April 12!

Edited 4/12/13: Read more reviews about these planners on the Mosaic Reviews blog!

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Easter Garden {cultivate}

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During last week’s homeschool art class at our church, the group did the cutest project for Easter. I had actually seen it surf by in Pinterest but had forgotten to pin it, so I was pretty excited when I arrived in class and discovered what the day’s craft would be! Most of the materials are things you’d find in your own back yard, so it’s even low cost!

You’ll need: a large terra cotta saucer (ours were 8 inch, I think), a small terra cotta pot, soil, grass seed, twigs, twine (and/or hot glue gun), small pebbles and one larger rock. I was baby-sitting a toddler for someone while the class was going on, so I didn’t actually get to see the process of putting it together (they did it outside), but it seems pretty simple enough. This site, A Homestead Heart, gives a great tutorial. I did help with the crosses on TG’s, and what we did was hot glue the two sticks together so they held and then we criss-cross-tied the twine over the twigs to help them stay put.

Easter Garden after 1 week.

Easter Garden after 1 week.

The site I linked to said it would take about 7-10 days for the grass seed to germinate and sprout, but ours took less than a week. The above picture was taken on Thursday, one week after they planted them, and look how high and filled in it is already! My kids have been thrilled to check it every day, water it and watch how high the grass is. It’s sitting on our kitchen table (to get some nice sunshine) and whenever I would check, I would see the big rock covering the “tomb” and would place it back to the side. I discovered the other day that my daughter TG kept putting the rock in front “because it’s not Easter yet!” And that, of course, is when the stone was rolled back and Jesus arose from the dead. Oh, how literal little ones can be! 🙂

I love the great reminder this craft gives that Jesus is risen! Every day we can look at our Easter garden and be reminded of that. And the science/gardening lessons they learned are pretty cool, too. 🙂 You’ve still got time to make one with your own family before this Easter holiday–sounds like a great weekend project to me!

In the shadow of the Cross

In the shadow of the Cross

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! {cultivate}

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This week, I’ve noticed a lot of parents posting pictures of their kids in wacky hats, dressed up as their favorite book characters and other lots of book-related fun. And then I find out there’s a celebration of Dr. Seuss this week! Sounds like a fun day of school to me! I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but we managed to have a Seuss-tastic day of it anyway.

We started our day with some green eggs and ham (well, a version of ham). Thanks to the Daddy of the house, who works from home on Fridays and got to join in the fun. In person, our eggs were a nice, bright spring green. A little more palatable. Our daughter was hesitant, but our 4-year-old little man dove right in. But everyone ate them!

Green eggs and...bacon. It's all we had.

Green eggs and…bacon. It’s all we had.

We did some of our regular math worksheets and I added in a couple of Dr. Seuss-related ones. Seussville.com has a large selection of printables and activities that I snagged one from, and I look forward to using more of their resources for next year’s Suess Day or even if I want to focus on a particular book sometime. My daughter and I read The Cat in the Hat together for reading time, and then, since I had wanted to read Green Eggs and Ham, but every copy was checked out in our library system (including the audio books!), I let Tim Tebow read it to my kids instead. I also had a Dr. Seuss children’s biography book on reserve from the library, but it hasn’t become available yet. I was disappointed in that, but we’ll just have to read it next week when it comes in. The name of it is The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss.

We had a bit of musical appreciation while we did our craft. We stumbled upon some of the soundtrack to Seussical the Musical on YouTube, and the kids had fun dancing around, especially to the Green Eggs and Ham song. I admit that I do not know anything about Seussical, but the songs we listened to were pretty upbeat and fun. I might investigate it further, because I love musicals.

For our craft, we made Cat in the Hat pop-up puppets that I found here at Stuff by Ash. A bit more parent helping required than I usually like for a children’s craft (gluing on the top and brim of the hat, and cutting out of things), but I think our girl liked the project in the end. You can’t see it in the picture, but instead of a dowel rod, I reused a red-and-write striped straw from our Valentine’s Jar of Hearts project. How’s that for great repurposing!)

Cat in the Hat pops up!

Cat in the Hat pops up!

After all that learning and dancing and fun, everyone was hungry, so along with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I made Cat in the Hat Hat Kabobs. I saw the idea on Pinterest to make them with strawberries and bananas, but I lacked the bananas and had to improvise. They were a hit!

Cat in the Hat Hat Kabobs, with strawberries and marshmallows

Cat in the Hat Hat Kabobs, with strawberries and marshmallows

Fridays are our usual pizza-and-family-movie night, so I think we’re going to conclude our Seuss Day with a Netflix viewing of The Lorax. It’ll be a new one for all of us; I’ve never even read the original story, or not that I remember anyway. I’ve seen so many adorable and creative ideas for Dr. Seuss-themed crafts, food and learning that I look forward to doing this day again next year–or maybe even sooner, when I have the chance to better prepare for it!

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss story?

Homeschool Organization: The Well Planned Day Planner {cultivate}

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I promise, one of these days, to get around to talking about the homeschool part of this home :-). For now, I’ll just mention one thing that has helped me keep track of this year: the Well Planned Day homeschool planner.

Last summer, I went back and forth between the Well Planned Day book and Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner. They both looked like they had a lot of the features I was looking for and I had a hard time figuring out which one I would prefer using. I also spent a lot of time perusing Pinterest for the homemade printable versions that many other homeschool moms have created. I had briefly flipped through Apologia’s book at the spring homeschool convention, but everything that weekend was such a blur, I didn’t really remember much about it by the time I wanted to order one. Finally, since we had already started our school year and I was starting to feel overwhelmed, I bought the Well Planned Day. I liked the fact that it had all the year’s calendar dates filled in, and the month-at-a-glance/weekly schedules for each month in one place, and as a newbie, I wanted something to make my life easier.

Well Planned Day homeschool planner

Month-at-a-Glance from the Well Planned Day homeschool planner

I liked the semester attendance page, because I wondered how I was supposed to track attendance. It even had places for “sick days” which I didn’t think existed in homeschool ;-). There are also progress reports/report cards, which I haven’t used since we’ve only got kindergarten here. There are places to plan the school year for up to four students in the planner. Each week also has a (small) space for menu planning, which I have appreciated. It’s easy to jot down meal ideas for the week and I do believe it has helped us to eat more at home instead of me coming to the end of the day and wondering “Hmm, what on earth should I do for dinner?” Other features, some of which I’ve used, some of which I’ve not, include:

  • perforated, tear-out shopping lists
  • holiday planner
  • monthly budget
  • books to read list
  • field trip section
  • Bible verses
  • monthly encouragement devotional.

In addition to the planner, I bought a large three-ring fabric-covered binder that is basically my school brain. I looked in both Target and Wal-Mart, and I think the one I bought ended up from Wal-Mart; it was around $12, which I thought was reasonable (and cheaper than the matching binder that you can buy with the Well Planned Day planner). I added my spiral bound planner, and several colored dividers with pockets. My original plan was to print out everything for the month or week ahead and have them placed in the appropriate dividers. Ha! Maybe I will be able to do that for *next* year. It’s been great to keep track of the mess of papers which seems to accumulate daily, however.

3-ring binder with dividers/folders

3-ring binder with dividers/folders

Seriously, this binder and planner combo have been a fantastic tool for me as I’m still wading these unfamiliar homeschool waters. I’m probably not using the planner to its greatest potential, and I’m not sure what I’ll end up using for next year, but it’s helping me figure out what works for me, and what doesn’t. Oh, and I checked for my binder brand, and it’s called Case-It. This one seems to be it, although it’s a different color. (And yes, mine also has the pull out file folder, but I worried that it wouldn’t be big enough for the papers I would use, and I wanted it to be easy to flip and get to rather than having to unlatch the velcro closure to the file folder all the time.)

Case-It 3-ring fabric binder

Case-It 3-ring fabric binder

Oh, and in case I’m supposed to mention it, none of these companies have sent me anything or are asking for reviews. I am just sharing what has worked so far in our homeschool journey.

Do you use one of these homeschool planners? Do you make your own? I would love to hear your ideas for how you keep track of your homeschool day!

Happy New Year! {celebrate}

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Welcome to 2013! I’m not sure where on earth 2012 went; seems like it just got here! The last few months especially seemed to fly by, what with birthdays and holidays and homeschool and life. As I saw someone on Facebook post: “I remember 2012 like it was just yesterday.”

I’ll let that one sink in a minute. 😉

As happens around this time of year, I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish this year, and some goals I want to tackle. I’ve been remiss in letting this blog go, and I regret that the first half of my daughter’s kindergarten year is already over and I never managed to even do one post about it. I also didn’t anticipate how emotionally and physically draining being a wife, mother, housekeeper AND teacher would be, either, so I’m not berating myself about it. Just moving on with good intentions and (hopefully) better planning. Other goals include continuing my decluttering mission from 2012 (we got derailed a few times, but I want to get back on track) and becoming more organized overall, but especially in regard to our homeschool. And I’m looking forward to learning all that my Silhouette Cameo can do (loved my Christmas present this year!).

I’ve also got some fun news to share! I’ve been selected to be part of Homeschool Mosaics’ review team at Mosaic Reviews! I’m excited to be part of this team and look forward to learning from the other moms and team members. I’m also thrilled by the opportunity to review various homeschool resources through the site and share that information with you and others who are homeschooling.  You can learn about Homeschool Mosaics mission at their site, but their blog is filled with encouraging words and helpful resources.

So, here’s to a new year and a new start! And I hope 2013 is filled with wondrous possibility for you!