Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three Weeks in Review and Our Homeschool Q&A


It's been a slow a-cranking-back-up this month, but January is always kind of like that for us. Even with our slowly cranking-up school days, life still seems to race by. I blink and the weekend is once again upon us. How can time pass so fast?!? Is it really 2015? [And are those really Fruit Roll-ups in my bed?]

This is one of the many reasons I love homeschooling. I can't imagine how quickly these boys would be growing up if they were gone all day every day. It already seems like they are growing right before my eyes. I keep thinking, "How can I only have six more summers before Stephen graduates?!?" My heart splits as I think about the missed opportunities. My heart swells when I ponder those opportunities when, by God's grace, I think I might have hit the bulls-eye. There's one thing I've learned I'm learning:

How I spend my time matters.

So when I spend several days setting aside my blogging-and-family-memory-recording hobby (which I love and am pretty passionate about) because we now have a seven-month-old who obviously does not share my enthusiasm for computer-related activities, it's okay in the grand scheme of things. These are difficult lessons for a check-the-box obsessor. [Seriously, I even make deadlines for myself when none really exist. Anyone out there identify with such insanity?]

So now that I've fallen "behind" (and will likely continue to do so for a while), let's see if I can catch us all up on what we've been up to...

We started 2015 with my husband - along with the LEGO Ferrells -  on a drillship off the coast of Brazil.


Gary nicknamed the LEGO Ferrells the LFF (Lego Ferrell Family). With our family's fascination with hidden object games, he surprised us with an occasional Find-the-LFF puzzle sent straight to my email inbox.


This is Gary's desk offshore, where he's hidden six Lego mini-figs. Can you find all six Lego Ferrells in the above photo?

While Gary was offshore, the rest of us back home enjoyed playing games (our solution to fighting winter doldrums - click here for some memory work review game ideas) and going on walks together (another solution to fighting winter doldrums)...

 

As with any typical family walk, we have Stephen reading (on the right) and David & Levi leading way up front as they compete to be in "first place."

Earlier this month, Stephen built his robot EV3RSTORM, 


and Isaac officially joined our school room. (He was already in the school room, but I was carrying him almost constantly. Now I can set him down in the playpen for about ten minutes at a time.) 


To tell the truth, on a day when I was just DONE with our school day (even though we were not actually done with our school day), I called off the remainder of our day and rearranged furniture instead. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment, anyway.

[Yes, we might have a had a few days this month when we were still working on our core work until after dusk. I don't know what it is about January and February. We seem to work in s-l-o-w motion.]

Now for a little how-our-family-does-things trivia:
Q:  What do we do when we find out we have family presentation the night before our Classical Conversations community meeting day? 
A:  We present on what we're already doing.


We are currently planning our next big 50-states-before-they-graduate trip. In late March we'll be flying to Los Angeles and driving through CA, NV, AZ, UT, CO, NM, TX, and OK, where we'll stop to visit my family before heading back through AR to TN.  For our presentation, we plotted our past trips on this map, along with a rough outline for our future planned trips.  We have six and a half more years to take seven more trips (including Hawaii and Alaska, which will probably have to be the summer(s) after Stephen graduates). It's a good thing we never specified which children are "they."

Q: What do we use for language arts before the Classical Conversations Essentials program?
A: Mostly, we just use All About Reading and All About Spelling.


The boys love the stories in All About Reading. Even Stephen joins David when he reads his AAR stories. The stories are amusing and engaging for all of them, and the curriculum itself teaches things like idioms. In the above photo, Stephen even brings his math assignment with him (as if he would complete his math assignment while David is reading an amusing story, but he gets points for trying).

All About Spelling has not only given me a systematic way to teach the boys spelling, it has taught me many rules that I did not know about spelling and syllabication. As an intuitive speller, I've always just "gotten" it without much effort. My children, however, are not intuitive spellers. This program has helped me to teach them in a way that they understand. Not only that, it also includes sentences for dictation, which we have used to learn punctuation, capitalization, parts of speech, and sentence structure. In fact, until this year for David (our almost-9-year-old), we have done nothing else for language arts. If you're interested in learning more about All About Spelling, you can read this post.

When Stephen joined Essentials almost four years ago as a third grader, he struggled quite a bit with the IEW writing assignments. Because of that struggle, I decided to introduce David to the program using IEW Bible Heroes, and it's been really great! For those worried about English grammar before Essentials, I've found that just memorizing the three cycles of English grammar before Essentials is really all that was needed for us.

Q: What do we do with Isaac during Essentials?
A: When Gary is home, Isaac hangs out with his daddy. When Gary's not home, Isaac sits in class with Stephen and me doing things like... learning the difference between active and passive voice.


I think he enjoys Essentials.

Q: How do we get our boys excited about math?
A: For David, silliness is key. He sometimes draws his numbers hanging off the "cliffs" (aka, the lines where the answers go), or speaking to each other with voice bubbles, or engaging any number of other melodramatic events that numbers can do on a boy's Saxon math page.


In this case, he improved his math lesson by adding his own title to the graph. The main thing for us is to just... laugh with math.

In fact, we have a library of Life of Fred books. My children love them. These books are silly-funny, they place the learning of mathematics in context, and they are especially helpful for our avid readers who get easily distracted by specks of dust while completing a math assignment.


When Life of Fred: Financial Choices arrived, Stephen sat on the bed reading and answering some of the "high school" practice exercises for an hour or two one night after our school day was over. I love that the boys do this in their spare time. I'm honestly thinking about taking the plunge and purchasing the entire set of Life of Fred books all the way through Calculus just to encourage additional mathematics study in our home. To find out more, read the topics covered in each book, and download samples, visit the LifeofFredMath website. [Note: Life of Fred is not our core math curriculum. We use Saxon math for our core math because I am interested in developing the discipline of mathematics in my children. This is my own personal preference based upon my experience as an engineer and as a former high school math teacher seeing the weaknesses in the students I taught. And... after several years of elementary-math-curriculum experimenting, we came full circle back to Saxon because it works for us, even if the boys sometimes get distracted by the dust floating in the air. What matters more than their distractibility is my response to their distractibility. Honestly, my response is what causes the tears in any subject in our homeschool.]

Q: Do we use a Bible curriculum?
A: Yes. We currently use a combination of Grapevine Studies and PictureSmart Bible. We just finished up Grapevine Studies Old Testament Catechism (about two months later than I had planned, but, once again, we must look at the grand scheme of things, which is... well, we finished it!).


We've enjoyed many Bible studies by Grapevine Studies, but I've found that we enjoy our studies more if we switch things up a bit, so we've returned to using PictureSmart Bible for our study of the New Testament this semester at the request of our eleven-year-old, Stephen.  We are currently finishing up "The Bridge" in the PictureSmart Bible, which provides an overview of history during the intertestamental period.


It's been a great springboard for discussion as it places events from our timeline (and geographical places we've memorized) in a Biblical context and vice versa.

Q: How do we "build" upon our memory work?
A: We sometimes do activities, but mostly... we just read.

In fact, that's all we've had time and energy to do since we started back after Christmas. So... here's what we've been reading:


During Week 13, we read our reading selection from William Bennett's Treasury of Virtues (which we continue to use every week) along with the wonderful picture book I Have a Dream (Book & CD with MLK Jr's speech as it was given during the March on Washington)  and the reader A Lesson for Martin Luther King Jr.  Even though we were planning to read it this week, we had already read Who Was Harriet Tubman? last semester. We were very pleased with these selections!


During Week 14, we read Smokestacks and Spinning Jennys, Giants of American Industry - John D. Rockefeller, and In Search of Norman Rockwell's America. The Rockefeller book has some issues (as indicated on the review I wrote on amazon), but I thought it was still a great overview of Rockefeller's life if you skip the parts I indicated on this reading plans post.  I especially enjoyed the Norman Rockwell book because it had so many large Rockwell illustrations for picture study, and it included quotes by Rockwell and about Rockwell. The page below includes a quote from Buzz Aldrin (a person who will be coming up in a future week of memory work).


For Week 15, we enjoyed reading Paddle-to-the-Sea, which gave us a chance to review the Great Lakes in detail (love-love-love the illustrations in this book!). Stephen has also enjoyed The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! and keeps telling us random things about elements, although I've discovered it's not a complete reference in its listing of elements. For a guide that includes all the elements, you might look at The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, which is one that we're considering as an alternative, although my husband will have some real issues with its stance against the incandescent bulb. (If you only knew how serious this debate is to my dear husband...)



The last time we were in Cycle 3, we very much enjoyed reading Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt! and are considering re-reading it if we find them time. We are still working through the other books (because we are not yet officially finished with Week 15): To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore RooseveltThe Camping Trip that Changed America,  and Who Was Theodore Roosevelt?.

As far as other things are concerned, Stephen has been presenting on Great Artists during our Fine Arts time. He needed a structured presentation topic each week, and the tutors now have someone to research the artist for them; it's a win-win! I'm hoping to find the time to go back to our Famous American Artists post to include a summary of each of his presentations. Each week, we've found a Biblical truth that ties in to each artist's life or artwork. Making those connections is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Speaking of beautiful...


we finally had enough snow here for some sledding...


...which made for three thoroughly delighted boys!



Here's hoping you are enjoying your homeschool daze during these sometimes-tough-and-rough-but-very-blessed winter months!

Do you have any questions about our homeschool or about curriculum we use? If so, please leave a comment or shoot me an email! I'd love to hear from you!

Affiliate links have been used in this post.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cycle 3 Week 16 Weekly Link-Up

The Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Weekly Link-up is a place for bloggers to share their ideas and activities with other CC parents and tutors for each week during Cycle 3 (2014-2015 school year). Unlike most weekly link-ups, this link-up will not be organized according to date but will be organized according to the week of CC. As such, these weekly link-ups will remain open for several months to accommodate for all the different schedules implemented by various CC Communities.  


This Link-Up is for Cycle 3:  Week 16

If you are looking for a different week, click here.


If you are looking for the Cycle 2 Weekly Link-Up, click here.
If you are looking for the Cycle 1 Weekly Link-Up, click here.


For bloggers who'd like a button, just copy and
paste the following html code into your webpage.

Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

<a href="http://www.halfahundredacrewood.com/search/label/CLASSICAL%20CONVERSATIONS%20CYCLE%203%20WEEKLY%20LINK-UP" target="_self"><img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-8xi8bDwVCGU/U0VOzqTjmfI/AAAAAAAAI6I/h-ImkCVhRn8/s1600/CC-weekly-link-up.png" alt="Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood" width="225" height="225" /></a>

Would you like to participate? 
For bloggers:  Feel free to share either 1) your plans for the week listed above or 2) what you did for this particular week of CC. When submitting your entry, please include the name of your blog or blog post and link directly to your post for the week noted in the post heading (so we can find it!) rather than to your entire blog. Also please link back to this page in your blog post so that your readers can check others' websites who are participating as well.  My hope is that this link-up encourages a feeling of community and friendship in the CC blogging world.

For non-bloggers:  Bookmark or pin this page and remember to visit the fabulous Cycle 3 blog entries that will be posted in the near future - all kinds of ideas for supplementing Classical Conversations. Check back often to see if others have submitted their ideas!

Bloggers:  By participating in this link-up, you agree that you will not post the words (in text, audio, or video format) of the history, science, timeline, or other specific wording found within the Foundations Guide in your blog post. You also agree to not post links to youtube videos, on-line Quizlet flashcards, or other material containing memory work sentences from the Foundations Guide.  Please do not post any material you have downloaded from CC Connected if it is not your own creation. You may include a reference to a specific file you have found useful by stating the name of the file so that it may be searched on CC Connected. This website strives to maintain the highest degree of integrity in honoring copyrights owned by Classical Conversations (or any other person or company, for that matter). Thank you for being honorable and trustworthy in your participation in this link-up!

This link-up is intended to be used with the Foundations Guide 4th Edition.  

For those receiving this in your email inbox, just click on the heading of this post to access the "Add Your Link" button or to access links that have been submitted. (But be patient, as it will take some time for bloggers to get their posts written and their links up!)

This will help all of us to easily find the ideas others have shared for each week of Classical Conversations! Thank you for participating!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

America the Beautiful: U.S. History Study (1000 AD to Present)


Every time we cycle back through a year of U.S. History study, I usually piece together an assortment of various books and activities from different curriculum companies and websites based on my children's interests. I've just never found anything that provides everything I hope for in a one-year study of American history that my children also enjoy.

Until now.

This year our family has discovered something that has engaged the interest of our children (ages 6, 8, and 11):  an American history study that is chronological, complete, and, most importantly in this season of my life, simple to use. In fact, it is the easiest-to-follow-yet-most-thorough U.S. history study I have come across for elementary-aged children, and... we love it!

America the Beautiful is a one-year American history, geography, and literature study from the Notgrass Company consisting of seven parts:
  • America the Beautiful Part 1 and America the Beautiful Part 2 (history text)
  • We the People (primary source text)
  • Maps of America the Beautiful
  • Timeline of America the Beautiful
  • Lesson Review
  • Student Workbook
  • Optional Literature Study
The best way to describe this treasure chest full of gems is to open it up to show you each piece, so without further ado, let's take a trip through America the Beautiful.

America the Beautiful Part 1 & 2 

The America the Beautiful text is divided into two hardcover books each composed of 75 lessons (30 units with 5 lessons each). The first book begins with life in America before the arrival of the Europeans and continues through the Civil War. The second book begins with America's westward expansion and continues through modern days.



Each unit is divided into five lessons, which are quick evening read alouds for our family:
1.  Our American Story, which covers major events from the time period of the unit, including biographical insets of each U.S. President placed in the context of the events in which they lived



and even a note/illustration providing the states which were added to the union. (Details like this are so helpful!)



2.  An American Landmark that relates to that time period. Here we read about the history of and interesting facts about an important site in American history, such as Carnegie libraries.



3.  God's Wonders, which points out the wonders of God's creation across America. (This is one of my favorite parts about this study of American history! We get to "travel" the United States without ever packing our bags!) Here we explore national parks and other sites through photographs and illustrations as we learn about them in a historical context.


Cycle 3 Week 15 Weekly Link-Up

The Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Weekly Link-up is a place for bloggers to share their ideas and activities with other CC parents and tutors for each week during Cycle 3 (2014-2015 school year). Unlike most weekly link-ups, this link-up will not be organized according to date but will be organized according to the week of CC. As such, these weekly link-ups will remain open for several months to accommodate for all the different schedules implemented by various CC Communities.  


This Link-Up is for Cycle 3:  Week 15

If you are looking for a different week, click here.


If you are looking for the Cycle 2 Weekly Link-Up, click here.
If you are looking for the Cycle 1 Weekly Link-Up, click here.


For bloggers who'd like a button, just copy and
paste the following html code into your webpage.

Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

<a href="http://www.halfahundredacrewood.com/search/label/CLASSICAL%20CONVERSATIONS%20CYCLE%203%20WEEKLY%20LINK-UP" target="_self"><img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-8xi8bDwVCGU/U0VOzqTjmfI/AAAAAAAAI6I/h-ImkCVhRn8/s1600/CC-weekly-link-up.png" alt="Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood" width="225" height="225" /></a>

Would you like to participate? 
For bloggers:  Feel free to share either 1) your plans for the week listed above or 2) what you did for this particular week of CC. When submitting your entry, please include the name of your blog or blog post and link directly to your post for the week noted in the post heading (so we can find it!) rather than to your entire blog. Also please link back to this page in your blog post so that your readers can check others' websites who are participating as well.  My hope is that this link-up encourages a feeling of community and friendship in the CC blogging world.

For non-bloggers:  Bookmark or pin this page and remember to visit the fabulous Cycle 3 blog entries that will be posted in the near future - all kinds of ideas for supplementing Classical Conversations. Check back often to see if others have submitted their ideas!

Bloggers:  By participating in this link-up, you agree that you will not post the words (in text, audio, or video format) of the history, science, timeline, or other specific wording found within the Foundations Guide in your blog post. You also agree to not post links to youtube videos, on-line Quizlet flashcards, or other material containing memory work sentences from the Foundations Guide.  Please do not post any material you have downloaded from CC Connected if it is not your own creation. You may include a reference to a specific file you have found useful by stating the name of the file so that it may be searched on CC Connected. This website strives to maintain the highest degree of integrity in honoring copyrights owned by Classical Conversations (or any other person or company, for that matter). Thank you for being honorable and trustworthy in your participation in this link-up!

This link-up is intended to be used with the Foundations Guide 4th Edition.  

For those receiving this in your email inbox, just click on the heading of this post to access the "Add Your Link" button or to access links that have been submitted. (But be patient, as it will take some time for bloggers to get their posts written and their links up!)

This will help all of us to easily find the ideas others have shared for each week of Classical Conversations! Thank you for participating!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

20th Century Study by Homeschool in the Woods {Giveaway}


Last year, our family pieced together a lapbook/unit study covering the events of the 20th century from our favorite unit study company, Homeschool in the Woods.  Now that we are revisiting the 1900s with our memory work again this semester, we are looking back through our previous work as a review. It's one reason our family has enjoyed our Homeschool in the Woods studies so much!

The 20th Century Lap Pak unit study / activity packet (downloadable or on CD-ROM) includes Lapbooking activities for...

1. World Wars
2. Other Conflicts: In the Americas & Global
3. Political Events
4. Movements that Made a Mark in History
5. Modern Missionaries
6. Disasters
7. The Stock Market Crash of 1929
8. Science & Invention in the 20th Century
9. Medical Advancements
10. The Space Race
11. Art Movements of the Modern Era
12. Accomplishments in Architecture
13. 20th-Century Authors and their Literature
14. Music of the Century
15. Transportation in America
16. News & Media of the 20th Century
17. Sports Figures Who Made Their Mark in History
18. People of Interest
19. Diner Menu “Dining through the Decades”
20. Fashion through the Decades
21. Slang Terminology
22. Timeline of the 20th Century

For those in Classical Conversations, this project pak has several tie-ins to this semester's memory work.



Every time we use Homeschool in the Woods products, I am thoroughly impressed with the graphics and the creativity of the lapbooking components. The content of this particular study provides a great overview of the 20th Century. Each unit study by Homeschool in the Woods contains a booklet with reading assignments, along with a book list for additional reading and research should you choose to delve deeper into a certain subject area. Unlike some of their other unit studies, this particular study does not contain extra projects, although it does have a collection of recipes ("Dining through the Decades") from the 20th century. What a fun way to bring a project/semester to a close!

Of all the studies we have completed by Homeschool in the Woods, this one was the simplest!  As with all of their studies, detailed instructions are provided for the assembly of the lapbook along with photos and helpful illustrations. 


Things we enjoy about Homeschool in the Woods project paks:
  • Great overview of the subject matter
  • Creative graphics
  • Detailed instructions (with illustrations) explaining how to cut, fold, and assemble the pieces
  • Hands-on method of learning some extra history (and a touch of science and art and music)
  • Includes a timeline, and we love timelines around here!
  • My children love making the pieces and playing with the pieces after it is finished (which incorporates a good deal of review)
Suggested grade level is 3-8, (although our younger children have enjoyed these projects, too!). If you're not sure if you or your children would enjoy something like this, visit Homeschool in the Woods to see photos of all the projects and to download free samples of Timeline Figures, Time Travelers, Project Passports, Olde World Style Maps, and even a stand-alone Author's Mini-Project (for studying author's of classic works).  (In fact, we tried out several of the freebies before we ever purchased a Homeschool in the Woods unit study.)

I'm excited to share that our friends at Homeschool in the Woods have provided one digital download of the 20th Century Lap Pak to give away to a reader of Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to everyone who shares or comments on this post, and thank you to the Pak family of Homeschool in the Woods for providing this giveaway!

To see other Homeschool in the Woods Studies we've completed:
American Revolution Study
Early 19th Century Study
Benjamin Franklin Unit Study (for grades K-2)


This article (originally written January 2014) has been updated and republished from the archives to provide a giveaway to our readers while again recommending something we have truly enjoyed as a family.

We received this product last year for the purpose of reviewing it and received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed herein are my personal, honest opinions. In fact, we bought and used Homeschool in the Woods products [with our own money] for two years because we enjoyed them so much. Please read our full disclosure policy.