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Oct 1, 2014

Preschoolers and Peace ~ A Book Review

When the Crew was offered a review of the e-book Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet, I jumped at the chance to read a copy.  Kendra Fletcher of Preschoolers and Peace has written a loving guide for integrating your toddler or preschooler into some of your school day.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

Many homeschooling families are raising and teaching children of multiple ages.  I know full well how difficult it is to teach school age punks with a baby on the hip or toddler under foot.  Mal and Xav tend to get distracted by Merrick when he is doing something different at the table.  Naptime is the easiest way to school Mal and Xav.  As Merrick got older, he first gave up his morning nap and now sometimes doesn't sleep in the afternoon.  I preferred the morning hours for school.  I think the bigger littles stayed focused better before lunch than after.  Right now, we're getting in one and a half to three hours each afternoon, plus read aloud time and some outdoor activities most days.  That just isn't ideal for us, though.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

In thirteen brief chapters, Kendra guides you through scheduling a school day that includes your tot, rather than banning them from all of the excitement they just know is going on in that other room.  I love the idea of circle time as it is in the book.  What I associated with calendar time with the boys a couple of years ago and evolved into their daily notebooks, can be kicked up a few notches to include preschoolers.  In Preschoolers and Peace, it's defined as, "...fabulous, all-ages-are-welcome, group teaching time that allows us to pray together, laugh together, and get to the things we often run out of time for."  As I think about ways to incorporate this into our mornings, I really see the beauty of it.  I've been pulling out activities that Merrick can sit at the table and do with us while we talk and learn.  Training the olders to be less distracted by him is as important as teaching him to work on his "school" quietly alongside us.   

Top: Merrick working on QTip painting numbers.  Bottom: Our letter sort box, learning alpha order and matching upper and lower case letters.
Don't let the thought scare you.  The suggestion to schedule your day is really just to create a routine for your family.  If you aren't sure how to occupy the littlest family members, Kendra includes a great list of educational and fun busy work.  We all know just how much simpler life is when they are occupied.  Who among us hasn't had that dreaded thought that the toddler has been just a little too quiet for a little too long?

Topics in the book include
  • How Do I Keep Them Busy?
  • What a Homeschooling Mom Needs
  • Preschool Boys
  • Preschool Chores
  • Meal Planning 101
  • When All of Your Kiddos Are Preschoolers 
There are so many more resources in this book.  Preschoolers and Peace is a very enjoyable little book.  Sort of like chatting with the neighbor mom over your favorite hot beverage.  Kendra is a wealth of doable and worthwhile ideas.  I suggest reading the blog at Preschoolers and Peace as well.  Then do some strategizing and gather those little ones right in.

$2.99 ebook
For homeschooling moms with toddlers or preschoolers, or any mama who wants to discover ways to spend meaningful time with their littles.

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Sep 30, 2014

The Nose Tree ~ An IEW Review

The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) was started to help students develop listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking skills.  IEW uses a program created by primary schoolteacher Mrs. Anna Ingham in the first half of the 20th century.  In the 1970's, her nephew Dr. James B. Webster adapted Mrs. Ingham's lessons for older students and began to teach other instructors in her methods.  Mr. Andrew Pudewa was one of those instructors and brought this method to the United States.  I recently received IEW's Fix It! Grammar books, Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Teacher's Manual) and Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Student Book), for review.

Fix It! Grammar Review

Fix It! Grammar was written by Pamela White.  Mrs. White also teaches for IEW.  There are six levels of Fix it! Grammar.
  1. The Nose Tree, which I will be talking about, and
  2.  Robin Hood
  3. Frog Prince, or Just Deserts
  4. Little Mermaid
  5. Chanticleer
  6. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
The Teacher's Manual and Student Book are durable soft-cover with a spiral binding.  The student book can be downloaded as well.  Which brings me to the incredibly generous copyright policy which you can see in the image below.  IEW knows, acknowledges, and meets the needs of the homeschooling family and community.  Amazing.


The student book consists of the lessons, a grammar glossary, grammar review cards, and a certificate of completion. The Nose Tree begins very basically with nouns, homophones, end marks, and paragraph indentation.  By the end of the 33 weeks of lessons, the student will have a good working knowledge of basic grammar.  There are lessons in capitalization, contractions, clauses, and more with regular review weeks throughout.

This compulsive mama gave the cards to the boys to cut out.  You have to let go at some point and say, "Fly little birds.  Here are the scissors.  Please don't ruin our cards."  When I looked at some, I was going nuts and wanted to trim them all when I noticed they don't line up on both sides.  Fix It! Grammar's one, tiny flaw.  *smile*  I put two envelopes in the front of Malachi's notebook.  One holds the cards we have used or are introducing and one holds the rest for future use.


I love the look of the pages with plenty of white space for marking corrections.  That fact alone helps Malachi remain more focused on what he is doing and where he should be doing it.  Ahem.  "Should be."   There really is more space than there appears here.  Mal just writes really large letters.


And he flat out refuses to cross out homophones with a line.  Once he started X-ing, he continues X-ing.   My stubborn boy.  Each day consists of editing just *one* sentence.  No one needs to get bogged down, feeling overwhelmed.  Very few students can't correct one sentence, look up one word in the dictionary, and rewrite one corrected sentence.

The lessons begin with a page highlighting the week ahead.  There is an explanation of the new grammar topic with examples and a reminder to pull out the applicable grammar card.  This is followed by the basic instruction that remains pretty much the same each week.  Read the sentence, look up the vocabulary word(s), fix the sentence, and rewrite it.

First, Mal reads the sentence out loud.  He then decides on the end mark and locates the parts of speech we are working on or reviewing.  So far, we've covered nouns, articles, pronouns, quotation marks, and homophones.  Next, he determines what word to look up in the dictionary.  It's the bolded word or phrase in the sentence.  After looking it up, he writes it in his personal dictionary.  Then, he turns to the back of his notebook and rewrites the edited sentence.


His dictionary is a children's dictionary which was also chosen because there is plenty of white space and a couple of pictures on most pages.  That means that occasionally, one of the words or phrases he needs to look for isn't found in that book.  The Teacher's Manual contains a definition for all of these words.  All the answers are right there as well as plenty of teacher's notes and comments directed at "grammar lovers" intended to clarify anything that is considered too advanced for your Nose Tree reader.  The TM also has the scope and sequence listed for each of the 33 weeks and a grammar glossary.


With purchase of the Teacher's Manual, you will have access to a download of the Student Book and two helpful audios.

The Nose Tree Teacher's Manual costs $19.
The Nose Tree printed Student Book costs $15.

Even though IEW clearly states The Nose Tree is for grades 3 through 12, I like to teach the boys as much as I can at the same time.  With the unforeseen dictionary sharing hassle, I decided to have one boy look up all four words at once while one boy rewrote the four sentences that day, and one day to correct all four sentences.  This took only three days instead of four.  Three VERY long days.  It only took one week of that to realize that was a bad idea.  It was a horrible idea, actually.  I tried Xav on The Nose Tree for two weeks before I finally admitted it was just too much for him.   If it ain't broke, applies to a certain grammar program, too.  We're back to using it as intended with Malachi only.

Interested in IEW, but not sure where to start?  Go to IEW's decision tree
Interested in Fix It! Grammar?  Take the placement test.  Which, by the way, left me completely in over my head in moments. 
Learn more by watching this Fix It! Grammar webinar.

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See more reviews of The Nose Tree as well as most of the other books in the series.

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Sep 22, 2014

Week in Review 7/27/14

    Around the house...
The boys and I needed to go somewhere.  I couldn't get off the front porch!  There are two gates, one blocked and one locked.


    In the yard... 
Blue Heron.  Another of my photography experiments.  Taken with my phone through binoculars.
     

    I’m cooking…
Made some of our beets.  Roasted with our own thyme.  I love the candy cane striped beets.  They're so pretty.  I also cooked little pot pies.  I made the crust from scratch which I rarely do.  I'm just not confident about crust.


    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

Trish's Etsy shop   https://www.etsy.com/shop/HatsonParade

And I love this shot from Carey Crooker Photography.  This was my old neighborhood.  I've heard that mama bears will babysit or even adopt orphans.  I've been curious about this.



    This week's reviews... 
Schoolhouse Review Crew's Mathletics (including mine) 
Schoolhouse Review Crew's Hewitt Homeschool  (including mine)
Schoolhouse Review Crew's Analytical Grammar 

Sep 19, 2014

Field Trip Friday: Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium

I remembered at 12:30 AM that I needed to get up with the Bigger Littles and be out of the house in just seven hours for a nearly two hour drive for our field trip to the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury!  OOPS!


I was really looking forward to this trip.  We had finished up Apologia's Astronomy book in January and I wanted to be able to reinforce some of what was learned while it was still relatively fresh.

We actually didn't stay very long.  Micah had a role in a mystery dinner theater that night, and we had to get our Wild West on!

The main floor was mostly wide open and filled with various taxidermy projects and habitats found in Vermont.  This was pretty interesting, but the most incredible part was seeing all those homeschooled children standing in a *line!*  Xav was such a cute little goofball in his hat.


Upstairs, were displays of toys, bugs, and many different societies in places and times.

In the planetarium, we saw a really neat presentation.  The boys handled it well.  I wasn't sure how Mal would do, but he enjoyed it even though it was a bit long on the less interesting parts.  For instance, we really liked the part that showed the sky for 24 hours and the changing constellations. Honestly though, the part about the zodiac was so boring.  I also could have done without the story of a drunk teenager calling the educator at home in the middle of the night to report UFOs.  I would have loved if they had focused more on visiting planets than seeing that.  We "traveled" to one of the gas giants and learned a lot about that.  After five months, my brain is fuzzy about exactly which planet we got to see in depth.  I guess I should write these Field Trip posts in a more timely manner. Outside the planetarium, the boys got weighed on a special scale that showed what they weighed on Earth, Venus, Mars, and the moon.


This light up sphere thingy was very cool.  The OmniGlobe displayed all kinds of information about the solar system, Earth, our moon.  Basically, it can display as any sphere.  We were able to look at the weather on Earth and other planets, compare sizes of planets, visit surfaces on other planets.  It was very versatile.  You can read about this 60 inch globe at the Fairbanks Museum.  I'd definitely like to go again (not so early in the morning!) and stay a bit longer.  There were a few areas we barely looked at.

Sep 17, 2014

My Seven Minute Life ~ The 7 Minute Daily Planner Review

Recently, I received The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  Allyson Lewis and her team at The 7 Minute Life, really put a lot of thought about time management, organization, and strategy in to this planner.

Read all the way to the bottom to find out about the free "There's Never Enough Time!" webinar.

I just adore that little "prioritize. organize. simplify." graphic.

The planner is approximately 7.5" x 8.5," paperback with plastic covers, wire binding so it lays flat or can be folded over.  Each of the 90 days has a two day spread.  271 pages.

The somewhat lengthy preface walks you step by step through each section of the planner.  You really need to do this work up front to utilize The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner.  You will not regret investing the time required to read and complete the tasks.  I knew going into this review, that I was going to be taking a long and possibly eye-opening, maybe even painful, look at my life and my days.  Thankfully, it wasn't actually painful, more like freeing.  It reinforced some of the thinking about where my focus has been and where I wanted it to be.

The prioritize your values list of nearly 80 words helps you narrow your focus for each day.  I checked off half of those words in the first round!  I then needed to narrow that to the ten most important things in my life.  I maybe kind of cheated here, since I ended up with seventeen words on the list.  I really thought some of the words were synergistic and I listed them as such.  For instance, Order and Balance were not different priorities to me.  I also teamed up Faith with Legacy and Teaching with Learning.  Your ability to be a stickler to the ten priorities may vary.

Discovering my purpose was difficult.  Probably the most difficult of all of the activities involved in setting up the planner.  In the corporate world, "way back when," I never was good at the year end evaluations we were required to write about ourselves.  What are my five and ten year goals?  That sort of thing.  Because, honestly, I didn't intend to be in that city in ten years, let alone that company, and probably not that line of work.  I decided as I worked on my purpose, I needed to think about it in smaller increments than lifetime.  I know what I'd like people to think about me at the end of my life, but right now, I need to think about what a specific fraction of the collective people in my life "catch" from me.  Right now, in this season, I have little people to guide and a husband to love on.  They are my priorities and, essentially, My Purpose.  God has put me here, and I'm at bat.  There's no one on deck.  I have a purpose for this season and when this season is over (all too quickly, I know), I can think about what's next.

This time management tool also has pages for Home Repair, Meeting Planner, and an Exercise Log, as well as other organization helps.  The Unfinished Tasks and Mental Clutter lists are invaluable for someone like me, who forgets everything and is overwhelmed by all that needs to be in my brain, but fell out.

To keep me on track, the Daily Progress Report two-page spread is terrific.  I did alter the Daily Contacts section and make it my prayer list.  Let's face it, I just don't see or call that many people in a day.  Rather than rewrite it every day, I just folded the left side of the left page behind itself so I could see the previous list, which I updated.  The 5 before 11 section is a great way to get myself going in the morning.  I use it to remind myself to do laundry, empty the dishwasher, print pages the boys would need for school the following week, pick some veggies, start dinner in the crockpot, you know, all those super interesting things I do during the day...  This part also is a log for drinking water, tracking meals, hours of sleep the previous night, minutes of exercise that day.  Some of the things I wrote in my planner are personal (for me and for those I'm praying for), so I'm sharing a screenshot from the 7 Minute Life website.  Remember, this is just one side of the two daily pages.


The folks at 7 Minute life are so committed to helping you control your time, rather than being controlled by it, that they offer scads of free printables and videos to guide you through many of the processes utilized in The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner.

This planner is great for WAHMs, bloggers, business owners and their employees.  SAHMs may also find The 7 Minute Daily Life Planner valuable in getting control of life with only slight moderations.  If you need to streamline your day, this is a great planner to see what's working, what isn't, and how to organize the difference.  If you are ready to start and finish your days with a plan, this might be just the time strategy tool for you.
Cost: $24.95 for a 90 day planner.

Join the "There's Never Enough Time" webinar at The 7 Minute Life, Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 10-11AM CST.  There's no charge, but you will need to register.

You can learn more about the process behind The 7 Minute Daily Planner by watching these short videos.

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Sep 9, 2014

Under Drakes Flag ~ An Heirloom Audio Productions Review

We love audio books and, even better, audio drama.  Any time I can find something suitable for the boys to listen to in the car, I'm all over it.  Heirloom Audio Productions creates phenomenal audio drama with big WOW! factor.  Using movie quality sound and pulling together an incredible cast of accomplished actors with lovely British accents, Heirloom Audio's production of Under Drake's Flag sucks you right in to the excitement of a storm, a chase through the jungle, facing the Inquisitor, sharks...  Close your eyes and you feel like you're in the theater.

Analytical Grammar Review

Originally published in 1883, Under Drake's Flag was written by George (G.A.) Henty.  G.A. loved to tell stories and wrote scads of historical fiction with a strong Christian message.

Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British naval officer knighted by Queen Elizabeth I.  He led the second (first British) expedition to circumnavigate the world.  It took three years.  The Spanish called him El Draque, meaning "The Dragon."

Sir Francis Drake appears from time to time throughout the telling of this tale, but the focus of the story is on young Ned and Gerald who have one adventure after another, often from the frying pan into the fire.  They grow from boys to faithful, godly young men.  It's amazing to think how much sooner boys were considered men then.

Ned helps shape Gerald's faith in God while following the examples of godly men like Sir Francis.  Drake has a code, even as he and his men are pillaging Spanish towns, they are never to touch a woman nor harm an unarmed man.  His men are trained to follow the same code and Ned desires to be a godly man like Sir Francis.

At their most trying time, it is Gerald who supports and lifts up Ned.  He shows him how the Lord has used the men and circumstances in his life to make him into the godly man he wanted to be and was afraid he would never become.
 

The narrator is fantastic.  When the drama is intense, his voice thunders.  When the tale is calmer or things are secretive, his voice is calm and mellow.  The effects are wonderful.  The quality is very high.


How did the boys like this audio book?
We've listened to it several times over the last few weeks.  The first time we listened, when it got terribly exciting right before the end of the first disk, Xav was all wound up to hear what happened next.  He was very disappointed to have to wait a few days to hear disk two.

Even though the drama is intended for ages six and up, and it's very appropriate for all ages, even in it's most exciting segments, Xavier has a super soft heart.  When Drake's brother John died in the drama, Xav cried.  "Is this true?" he asked me.  "Tell me they made this up!  Why did they have to kill John?"  I explained that it was based on true events that happened hundreds of years ago, but it did take him a few minutes to calm down and be ready to listen to the rest.  I am not saying this to imply that the drama is too intense for younger listeners, but rather to show how involved in the story you become.

This two CD audio is two hours of exciting adventure!

An abridged study guide is included with the disks.  A full version is available as a PDF download.  The study guide is divided into three sections for each track.  Listening Well section is for comprehension.  Thinking Further guides the listener to think more deeply about the story, even about things that are implied rather than spelled out in the adventure.  Defining Words is a vocabulary section for further study of words.  Three short Bible studies conclude the abridged study guide.

The 28 page downloadable study guide is of the same format as the guide included with the disk, but it is just more; more questions and more vocabulary.  For example, in the section called On Board the Pacha, the Listening Well questions number ten vs. three, the Thinking Further section questions number three as opposed to only one, and the vocabulary words number seven rather than three.  Even the three Bible studies are slightly expanded.  This extended study guide makes a really good unit study and critical thinking assignment.

You can listen to the first chapter of Under Drake's Flag for free on the website, but I warn you, you will want to hear the rest!

The two CD set, plus bonuses, is available for $29.95.
Ages 6-adult.

Under Drake's Flag on social media.
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Heirloom Audio Productions next audio drama is scheduled to release in the fall (possibly early November)! It is called In Freedom's Cause, the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.
In Freedom's Cause
In Freedom's Cause on Facebook




Under Drake's Flag Reviews

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Sep 6, 2014

The Great Vermont Corn Maze ~ A Friday Field Trip

Our first co-op field trip of the 2014-2015 school year was the Great Vermont Corn Maze.

We drove nearly two hours one way.  We didn't stay as long as we would have liked and we didn't get to do everything, but it was one of those sticky days where the kids run around oblivious to the heat and get sweaty and red-faced.

We arrived just before ten, did the chatting, took our group photo, and headed into the big maze.  As we entered, Mal and Xav read each of the rules for me to be sure everyone was prepared.  There were four entrances; eeny, meeny, miny, and moe.  First, we chose miny.  I took Merrick's stroller, though he only rode 1/4 of the time.  It seemed like the whole maze was uphill.  We ended up being returned to the start at moe.  We started again at meeny, I think.  The four of us walked for about an hour when we saw an emergency exit and decided to take it.  Despite the ten foot corn, there was very little shade because it was creeping up on noon.  We got part way back and saw a tunnel that was begging to be run through.  That seemed to reinvigorate the punks and we headed off again.  It wasn't long and we were turning around and heading back to that emergency exit.


We exited right back at the beginning!  The owner told me we hadn't even left the first quarter of the maze!  Ah well, we headed into the red barn next (a blessedly cool red barn) and the boys kicked off their shoes and headed into the tunnels.  They also rode little tractors, a tire horse, and climbed in the hay.

Thanks, Meghan, for the top two photos!

Next up, LUNCH.  There is a nice, shaded picnic area there with several tables.  We brought along blankets, too.  Mal said he had a tummy ache and rested in the shade for a bit.  He seemed OK after that.  We grabbed ice cream at the gift shop.  Novelty ice cream was only $1 there.  Not unreasonable at all.

Merrick was anxious to see the goats.  He'd already had a nice tantrum before lunch over the goats.  I took him aside near the van and had a talk with him.  Sometimes, I think he listens to reason better than Mal or Xav!  He got to pet several goats and that made him happy.


Kid Village was insane amounts of fun.  For them.  I was roasting.  Some of the kids got sweatier and redder than they already were.  The village consists of a stable, corral, trading post, jail, and a home.  The jail was so cute.  It had a secret escape opening and some of the bars were not metal, allowing the punks to use their superhuman strength to escape.

"H" has a face, but since it isn't my face to share, he has been made incognito (as well as headless).
Nearby, they found an alien landing site and went for a ride into space.

Merrick's face cracks me up in this one!

Next time, we will take the scenic kid tour in the maze.  That looked like a lot more fun than me trying to figure out what in the world we were doing in the main maze.  We never did get to play barnyard golf either...

I recommend The Great Vermont Corn Maze.  Follow the directions on the website rather than GPS.  Go when it's a bit cooler.  Have fun!