Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Weekly Wrap Up (Week of Feb 20th)

Another week in the history books, which means it's time for the weekly wrapup.
Homeschool Coffee Break
Linking Up With...

Last week went well, but we did get a bit behind. I did not schedule in for the holiday on Monday, thinking that both my husband and my oldest daughter would sleep in anyway and I would have most of school done before they got up.  Of course, nothing ever occurs the way one plans and they were both up early and my husband decided we would head to town to do grocery shopping and go out to eat.  

We did, however, get some work done before we headed out, opting to knock out our math and grammar lessons out before walking out the door.  However, since we didn't get to certain materials, I opted to defer those lessons til next week so that we weren't trying to play catch up and over whelm the kiddos.

This week, our drill pages added a review for fractions, which we've only briefly covered but I am thrilled to say the kids had no problem recalling the information.  I did decide to take it one step further and show them now to reduce fractions to get them use to the process.

While we haven't formally covered multiplication or division, we have used "Time Tales" for a review last year and I am completely amazed how much the kids have retained from that.  We'll formally be starting these skills in our math book in a few weeks but they already have a head start and a pretty good grasp on what's going on, so I am thinking it won't be quite the challenge as it was for me when I was in school.  At least, that's what I'm hoping.. haha

Our grammar lessons continue to be Daily Grammar from and Eclectic Foundations Level B. This week, we began talking about Verbs, which honestly, is review material for us but I went ahead and continued with the lesson.   We also began talking about subject and predicate and the kids had to start diagramming their sentences showing both, as well as their verb.  Also included in this lesson was the "state of being verbs", which I hadn't taught before.   This made me very glad I went ahead and taught the verb lesson.   The kids are troopers and they pick up new information very well.

With the Eclectic Foundations Level B, we worked on reading and pronouncing words that end in "es" as well as possessive nouns.  We also worked to rearrange words in a sentence to alternate between a declarative sentence and a question. (ei: The water is safe.  Is the water safe?) For our cursive practice, the kids worked on the letters M through P.  I said it last time but I got to say it again, I am so impressed with how their cursive writing is coming along using this program. (Which I will talk about in great depth when I write my review next month).  I've seen such an improvement in both Ashleigh and Garrett's writing samples.  Especially Garrett.  He tends to write very sloppy (I don't know if this is a boy thing or if it's an autistic thing) and seeing how legible his handwriting is becoming is amazing to me.   I also had to laugh as earlier in the week, I was bragging about their writing and a friend of mine commented about how cursive is suppose to be our generation's secret language.  While it's quickly becoming a lost art - my kids won't be left behind. LOL

For math this week, we reviewed Column Addition and Adding Large Numbers.  This is something they are both very good at, so basically, it was a cushy math week for them ;)  

We  did hold off for most of our history this week.  We opted to wait til next week to continue with our unit study on Equador and the Waodani people since our scheduling was off, however, we did sit down as a family and watch the movie "End of the Spear" which was about Nate Saint and his son Steve and their lives (and death) with the Waodani people.  I was fortunate to find this movie on Pureflix streaming service, along with a short 30 minute documentary by Elizabeth Elliott titled "Through Gates of Splendor".  We also found " Beyond the Gates of Splendor", a documentary produced by Steve Saint, on Netflix which we watched as well.  We will continue with the "Walking with the Waodani" unit study next week. 

Since our American history text is broken into short bits, we went ahead and included it with this week.  This week's discussion was in regards to the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the settlement of Jamestown, and Pocahontas and John Smith.   Pocahontas is always a fun topic in our house as a few years ago while researching my husband's family tree, we found that he and the kids are direct descendants of the Indian Princess.  

Once again, Science reigned ruler in this week's classroom. I've mentioned before, we are using "Exploring Life Science" by Chrissy Martin as our text.  I didn't think about the fact that this particular text is written for upper elementary students and I'm glad I didn't.  These kids are eating up the information presented and learning so much.  

This week, we tackled fungi, bacteria and viruses. Some of the activities we did this week were making a spore print from a mushroom (which we looked at under the microscope), dissecting a mushroom, observing how yeast works, observing bread mold and observing bacteria both from our petri dishes as well as from yogurt

Prepared penicillin slide
We tried to grow bread mold but being in the desert, we weren't highly successful.  After spraying a plastic bag with water and then adding bread, we placed the baggie in the top shelf of a cabinet in the dark.  After a week, we pulled out the baggie and while there was plenty of condensation on the original bag, we had only one very small sample of bread mold.  Luckily, it was enough to draw and then to take a sample of to place under the microscope.

Hard to grow mold in the desert
Bread mold under the microscope

 We had much better luck with our yeast experiment.  After adding honey to warm water, the kids added some of our bread yeast to the bowl.  We let it set for 15 minutes and when we returned, we had an extremely large, foamy yeast culture.  We were able to view this under the microscope as well.  In addition to the yeast, we also took a small sample of greek yogurt which we mixed with water and placed a sample on a slide.  At 400x magnification, the kids were thrilled (and somewhat grossed out) to see that there were living, moving "critters" in their food.

Bread Yeast culture
 We also decided to make a bottle of homemade ginger ale this week, to show how yeast can be used to naturally carbonate drinks.  We made a syrup of fresh ginger, sugar and water, filtered it into a 2 liter bottle and then added champagne yeast to the mix.  We allowed the bottle to sit at room temperature for 48 hours.  Throughout that time, the kids would walk over and squeeze the bottle to check that it was getting harder.  After 48 hours, we released the pressure and placed this in our fridge.  That night, we all enjoyed a refreshing (and very bubbly) glass of some of the best tasting ginger ale we ever had.  I think our science experiment may become a weekly project ;)

Last week, we poured agar for petri dishes and then took swabs of a few things around the house, as well as a sample from the kids unwashed and washed hands.  For the last week, the petri dishes have been hiding out in a dark cabinet.  On Thursday, we brought the petri dishes back out and observed the growth.  Our control dish showed little to no growth while Ashleigh's hand samples came back absolutely nasty, including her washed hands.  This gave us a very good lesson on why it is very important to use proper hand washing techniques with soap.  

Sample from Door Knob

Samples from Roku Remove and PS4 Controller
 For whatever reason, both of Garrett's samples resulted in the agar completely liquefying. We can only guess that there was some sort of bacteria on his hands that broke down the agar as it grew.

Our final school work included an art lesson using Creating a Masterpiece.  This is a review item for us.  Dad has been switched to day shift for the next few weeks, so for this weeks assignment, Dad joined in on the fun.  We opted this week to play around with water colors (we've previously done oil pastel lessons and wanted to change it up a bit).

Here is our final "masterpieces"..  Personally, I love Ashleigh's work - her flowers remind me of Hawaii and Hibiscus flowers ;)
Top: Alyssa and Charles  Bottom: Mine and Ashleigh
While not exactly homeschool related, last night we went to a fundraiser at Alyssa's school.  Each year, the senior class hosts a "Senior Luau" which includes a dinner and dancers from the local Pacific Islander Heritage Association.  The kids got to try some yummy Polynesian food such as Kalua pork, Pancit Bihon,and Lumpia.  The dancers were neat to see as well and they put on a very nice show. 

Once again, we had a great week, even if a small hiccup in the planning due to the holiday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

If there's one thing that is nice about living in the desert, it's the beautiful sunsets.  God surely uses one amazing pallet to paint the sky here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Home School in the Woods (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

History can be a pretty boring subject for most kids. I dreaded history in school because it mainly consisted of reading extremely dry material from a textbook, memorizing names and dates, and occasionally a really boring documentary. My kids prefer a "hands on" approach when they are learning a subject but there aren't many curriculum out there that offer a more "hands on" learning experience when it comes to history.

However, over the last several weeks, we've had the opportunity to review HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece from Home School in the Woods.  For this review, we were given the Digital Download version of this unit study.  This was a company that we were already familiar with, having reviewed their Middle Ages unit in 2015 (review can be found here).  

What Is It?

Stop Guide
The Ancient Greece unit study is designed to be like a fully immersive trip to Ancient Greece, covering material in what is known as a "Stop". Each stop focuses on one aspect of Greek history, such as the Government systems, major cities, everyday life, major battles, culture, and mythology of the era.  The Greece unit study contains 25 of these stops.  At each stop, students read a bit about the topic and then work on activities that coincide with the text.  Some stops even have Audio Tours where they listen to a field guide describing the topic as if an actual visit was taking place. 

Each stop contains a link for both the Guide Book Text as well as the Travel Itinerary.  The Guide Book Text is roughly 2-3 pages of reading material for the information covered in the Stop.  The Travel Itinerary contains the instructions for completing the projects that accompany the text.  Also, all printable files used for the projects are listed, as well as any Audio Tour links needed.  Clickable links for photos of completed projects are also included.

When using the digital downloadable version of the Project Passport, the entire curriculum is downloaded directly into a file on our computer.  A file entitled "Start.html" allows the user to click on the link and have the entire curriculum load up as a webpage in your default browser. While entirely browser based - once the files are downloaded you do not have to have an internet connection as all files are located on your computer.   Photos are included to show finished projects along with links for each of the reading texts and Stop information in the form of a "Travel Itinerary" which gives step by step instructions for that Stop.  Each of these files are saved as PDF's on your computer and are extremely easy to access and print out for binders.  The entire file for the unit study only took up 328 MB of hard drive space.  However, for those who prefer a physical copy of the unit study is preferred, Home School in the Woods does provide the option of ordering a physical CD. 

One of the major highlights of using this particular study unit is that your student will end up with a binder of projects that resembled a scrapbook project more than the typical lapbook often seen with a more hands on project, making it something that students will cherish more than other projects. (There is a lapbook component for those who really enjoy doing them). The drawback to this is this also means that your printer will get a workout as there are many components that have to be printed for each stop, using various different paper if one wishes to really make this a unique project.  It should also be taken into account that the volume of printing is doubled when using this unit study with multiple students, as each one is going to want to make their own projects.  Some projects also use specialty materials, such as sheets of clear acetate or Dura-lar.  Scissors and glue (or glue sticks) are an absolute necessity.
Just a few of the many projects the kids have worked on

One of the great thing about this curriculum is that while it can definitely be used as a stand alone

curriculum to study a particular time period, it's very easy to add supplemental materials to the lessons to expand even further and reinforce what is being learned.  Since Garrett loves Minecraft, we found a really neat homeschool class about Ancient Greece where he was able to convert what he learned to building projects on the game, such as using the different type of columns the Greeks used in their architecture.  Books and videos such as episodes of Drive Thru History can easily be added in with the lessons with each "Stop" and Home School in the Woods also provides a list of resources that offer suggestions on materials that can help to supplement the unit study. 

How Did We Use It

Being that we had already used a previous unit study from Home School in the Woods, we already had our binders and Travel Logs already made so we just recycled those items. We had lost Garrett's previous passport, so we did make new ones for each kid and we were ready to go. 

Because the kids are lower elementary, and there is a plethora of information to cover with this unit, we opted to move at a slower pace than older students would probably work at.  This allowed us to complete 1-2 stops per week, depending on the information covered.  I came to appreciate how each stop had it's own Travel Itinerary which helped me to keep track of what printouts we would need each day and gave me a way to check off each component as we completed it. 

A few things of the things I really enjoyed about this unit was that it covers much more than just history.  In the course of completing 7 stops, the kids have worked on various skills such as writing, art, geography and even cooking as they had to fill out articles in their weekly "newsletter", decorate post cards, create maps and learn about Greek foods.   

For Week 7, the kids had the opportunity to prepare a few different recipes provided which turned out really good.  The menu consisted of Spiced "Wine" (which was grape juice) with a meal of Avgolemeno (Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce) and Gyro meat and tzatziki over a Greek Salad, rounded out with Yiaourti me Meli and Baklava for desert.  

Overall, we have really enjoyed using the Ancient Greece study from Home School in the Woods.  While the kids did enjoy the Middle Ages study when we used it 2 years ago, I do feel it was a bit overwhelming for them at times.  Now that they are 3rd Graders, I think it was a much more enjoyable experience for them.  As it is so "hands on", it really was a perfect fit for my kids who can not stand just being read to.  And the fact that it includes so many different learning subjects is a huge plus.

There are so many projects involved in this study and the kids and I have only scratched the surface.  Other projects we have not yet reached include making pottery, mosaics, theater masks and a diorama of the Parthenon. 

I would highly recommend this for 3rd Grade through Middle School.  

Home School in the Woods also offers unit studies for Ancient EgyptThe Middle Ages and the Renaissance & Reformation.  A unit study for Ancient Rome is currently in the works and should be released sometime next year. 

#hsreviews #history #unitstudies #AncientCivilizations #lapbooking

For more information about Home School in the Woods and their HISTORY Through the Ages
Project Passport World History Studies be sure to visit their website or one of their social media sites:
HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Weekly Wrapup (Week of Feb 13th)

Well, another week of school in the books..  We had such a great week this week and accomplished quite a bit while having quite a bit of fun in the process.

Homeschool Coffee Break
Linking up with...

As always, we start our day out with a daily drill that reviews both language and math skills.  I typically purchase these from the website because I can pick up an entire month of drills for relatively cheap.  Yeah, I could probably make my own drill sheets, but honestly, I have enough on my plate.  LOL   Here's what our typical drill sheets look like.

These sheets are from the February Morning Work for 3rd Grade 

Garrett's writing on top, Ashleigh's on the bottom
For general subjects like English, we're still working through our Daily Grammar from  This week, we worked on use of contractions and the kids ended the week taking a quiz to make sure they understood, which they both aced.  We've also added Eclectic Foundations Level B to our grammar lessons which have worked out really well for us (I will be posting a review with lots of information about Eclectic Foundations early next month so be on the look out for it if you'd like to learn more).  One of the components of the Level B is learning cursive writing and while we've used other cursive curriculums in the past, I've got to say that I have seen such an improvement in both Ashleigh and Garrett's writing - to the point that Ashleigh's writing has superseded my 17 year old.

With math, we completed week 6 from our 3rd Grade Master Books.. This week was a review of Word Problems which the kids have no issues with.

We're still working through Where The Sidewalk Ends for our daily poetry. I know some people will find this type of book as "Twaddle" but the kids are enjoying it.  I figure there's plenty of time for the more serious poets, right now this allows for a very simple way to bring a bit of a silly break into our routine between grammar and math.  This week, the favorite poem for the kids was "Boa Constrictor".. It probably helped that Mom acted out the poem on each kid as we read through it. Lots of giggles ensued.

For history, we're still working on our Ancient Greece unit from Homeschool in the Woods as well as America's Story Vol 1 from Masterbooks. We also added Walking with the Waodani which is a new review item that we will be working on.  We're REALLY liking this particular study about the native people of Ecuador.  This week, we discussed the five missionaries who lost their lives trying to spread God's word to the Aucu (now called the Waodani) people.  We also talked about some of foods that the Waodani eat, how they hunt and some of the animals that can be found in the jungles of Ecuador. This led to some really fun moments, as the kids went on a "hunt" with blowgun (straws) and poisoned darts (spit balls) to take down a vicious jaguar (their 17 year old sister).  We also talked about whether or not we would eat Palm Weavil Grubs (we all said we might eat them if they were cooked - as the study says they taste like pork rinds.. yum).  I think I might purchase the biography about Nate Saint (one of the original missionaries) from YWAM publishing for after this study so we can continue to learn more about his life and mission.

Ashleigh's drawing of a Vampire Bat that lives in the jungles of Ecuador.

With America's Story, we discussed both Leif Ericson and Christopher Columbus this week, as well as some of the other early explorers of the Americas.

This week in our Ancient Greek study, we discussed the city of Sparta and then began discussing the Everyday life of the Ancient Greeks, such as what they wore and what they ate. To help reinforce this lesson, the kids and I moved the classroom to the kitchen and we prepared a Greek meal of Spiced "Wine" (grape juice),  Avgolemeno (Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce) and Gyro meat with a Greek Salad, rounded out with Yiaourti me Meli (greek yogurt with honey and almonds) and Baklava for desert. All of which were a hit and turned out very good.  The kids always enjoy when they get to cook a meal for the family and while the soup originally didn't sound appetizing, I'm glad we took the risk with it as it was probably the 2nd favorite part of the menu (the "wine" being the first). 

To help reinforce our Greek Lessons with Garrett (and include something that he is really passionate about), I decided to enroll him in one of the classes through Skrafty Minecraft Education.  If you're not familiar with Skrafty, it is a family friendly Minecraft server that caters mostly to homeschool kids.  They also offer many different courses for various subjects like Math, Language Arts, Science and History.  It's something I've been interested in trying with Garrett, since he likes Minecraft so much, so I went ahead and enrolled him in the Greek Culture and Architecture class. This is a 4 week, self paced class that discusses a few of the things we've been covering in our Homeschool in the Woods course, such as Greek columns for example. At less than 5 dollars for the class, I felt it was a perfect opportunity to see how he would do with classes in this format.  For week one, for his build assignment is to build the Greek flag and to design a Greek restaurant. He just started the class on Friday, so I'll give him all of next week to complete the restaurant but he did the Greek flag pretty quick.  Looking ahead at the class, I would highly recommend it along with the Ancient Greek course we are doing as they cover many of the same things.
Garrett's Greek flag

Science has become the highlight of our homeschool day.  Since the program we are using is so hands on, it really has sparked their interest more than any basic textbook would have done.  This week, we discussed protists and viruses.  Then we broke out the microscope to view both prepared slides of various protists such as paramecium, volvox and amoeba. Two weeks ago, I went to the very small late that is on base and filled a 2 liter with some water in the hopes of getting some live protist to view but when I looked at a sample, was disappointed that nothing could be found. However, over the last two weeks, I have "fed" the sample with a plant based frog food.  The work paid off as when we pulled a sample this week to view, we found a very hearty group of paramecium as well as Halteria grandinella swimming around. It's one thing to look at a prepared slide - it's a completely different experience to see a live sample swimming around. 

We also took a sample of some algae water from our dripping faucet outside in the hopes of maybe finding some other protist (since orginally I didn't think my pond water had anything it it).. We found a really cool Rotifer in that sample.

While we're not yet in discussions about bacteria, we needed to prepare ahead of time for the upcoming lesson, which meant we needed to make some agar and prep our petri dishes.  So we made a batch of "beef jello" as Ashleigh called it and poured some small and large dishes.  After our dishes were ready, the kids then placed their fingers on the agar - first with unwashed hands and then with washed hands - and we put the dishes up inside a cabinet to allow them to grow.  We will see the results next week. 

Making Agar

Dishes poured and cooling
 We also had an activity where the kids learned how easily germs are spread and how handwashing helps to eliminate germs.  I had bought some glow lotion that represented germs and a small blacklight that illuminates the powder in the lotion.  While the kids rubbed the lotion on their hands, I paid attention to where they touched, such as Garrett rubbing his hands on the door frame of the bathroom. The blacklight showed where our "germs" ended up, such as on the washrag, on the door frame, on their papers and pencil, and on the faucet and sink.

Having Fun with the blacklight

Finally, the kids had a test covering the first 5 weeks of their science course.  After seeing the questions, I was a bit hesitant on giving this test - the kids proved to me that I shouldn't underestimate them.  Garrett scored a 90 (he missed 2 out of 20 questions) and Ashleigh scored a 100%.

A sample of the questions from their Science Test

Overall, we had a GREAT week of school..

So, what's on our schedule for next week?

Science: Discussing bacteria, fungus and yeast (and we will be making homemade ginger ale)
Math:  Introducing Column Addition and Adding Large Numbers (which will be a review for them)
History: America's Story: Settlements, Mosquitos and an Indian Princess
                 Continuing Walking with the Waodani
                 Continuing Everyday Living in Ancient Greece
Grammar:  Continuing with Eclectic Foundations Lvl B
                 Daily Grammar: Parts of Speech: Verbs
New Additions: Masterbooks Elementary Bible and English Grammar
                        Picture Smart Bible - Old Testament


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