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Sep 28, 2016

Heirloom Audio's Cat of Bubastes Homeschool Crew Review

"From the shimmering sands of ancient Egypt,
comes an epic tale of mystery, intrigue, and suspense."


This houseful of boys (and Mom!) loves audio books and, even better, audio drama.  We really enjoy traveling to the grands much more when we can be entertained with one amazing story for more than a quarter of the trip.  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 The Cat of Bubastes is like being in the theater.  Just close your eyes.

G.A. Henty
In the 1800s, George Alfred Henty wrote dozens of history books for children.  His adventures were specifically geared toward boys and their insatiable desire for excitement and feats of daring.  These books were used extensively in schools in England and engendered a deep sense of duty.  His main characters always displayed resourcefulness, courage, and honesty.

  
The Cat of Bubastes,  a Tale of Ancient Egypt was first published in 1889.  It is considered to be a very popular Henty title.  I can see why!

The Cat of Bubastes' two CD set is over two hours of exciting adventures.  Jethro and his charge, Prince Amuba, are taken into slavery by the Egyptians.  On the way to Thebes, Amuba, and then Jethro, take it upon themselves to learn Egyptian from the guards transporting them.  This makes them well-suited to serve their new master and his family where Amuba is to be a companion for his master's son, Chebron.  The boys become fast friends and find themselves embroiled in adventures large and small.  This story takes place around 1250 BC.  Moses even makes a cameo appearance.

Some of the lessons demonstrated in this title include treating others as you would like to be treated and *not talking about a person's appearance in front of them*.  I may still have some boys who need to take these pieces of advice to heart!  Honesty is an important virtue highlighted throughout the tale.  Historically, listeners are learning about ancient Egypt and the Punic Wars.  Spiritually, the differences between polytheism and Christianity are mentioned several times.

Stellar Actors 
I always hesitate to name names because I never feel like I can convey the true greatness of this cast.  Some of the stars include Brian Blessed (Star Wars I and loads of Shakespeare, including a personal favorite - Much Ado About Nothing), John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones films and The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Anthony Daniels (DUDE!  That's 3PO!), and Sylvester McCoy (The Hobbit films and the seventh Doctor).  Many others would be very familiar to British audiences.

Along with the CDs, Downloadable extras include
  • Posters, 
  • Soundtrack MP3 (composed by John Campbell), 
  • Behind the scenes video, 
  • MP3 version of the CDs, 
  • The Cat of Bubastes ebook,
  • And (my favorite) a 47 page study guide. 
The study guide is divided into three sections for each track.
  • Listening Well section is for comprehension.  I find it helps the boys focus if I read the questions first, we listen to the track, and then answer the questions. 
  • Thinking Further encourages the listener to think more deeply about the story and the more subtle parts of the adventure.  It calls for speculations to be made, based on what they heard, about people's plans and motives.  Here, you'll also be instructed to find locations on maps and look for Biblical parallels within the storyline.
  • Defining Words is a vocabulary enhancement section.
  • Three Bible studies conclude the study guide.
  1. God Meant It for Good,
  2. The Knowledge of God, and
  3. Idolatry and Tyrany 

Heirloom Audio dramas are generally for listeners from 1st grade to adult.  All my punks enjoy them and there is often a buzz of excitement when they hear those first strong chords of music that signal the beginning of an Heirloom Audio recording.  There are currently six Christian audio dramas available.

Follow Heirloom Audio Productions on social media to discover which G.A. Henty books are on the horizon.

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Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

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Sep 24, 2016

First "Real" Haircut

Merrick finally decided to allow a hairdresser to cut his hair.  It turned out so nice.  He wouldn't allow her to use the clippers at first.  Finally, at the end, he did let her trim around his ears.  I love the faces he made and that he held my hand through the whole thing. 


Sep 16, 2016

Watkins Glen State Park (NY) ~ Field Trip Friday


One of my favorite places in the world is the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park in the Finger Lakes of New York.  It is, as they like to say in nearby Ithaca, "gorges."  Glen Creek drops about 400 feet over a two mile stretch.  There are waterfalls, pools, caves, and stairs.  Oh the stairs.  Over *800* stairs, actually.  I've hiked the gorge dozens of times with my parents, friends, and the bigger, Dave.  I know the gorge is one of the places Dave has truly missed since we moved to Vermont.

I've never managed to get M and the littles there in all this time.  Daddy likes to hike and I was sure he'd appreciate this location.  Xav also enjoys hiking and Merrick is up for just about anything we take him to.  That kid has so much energy, he was hopping and running ahead.  We're talking a three mile round trip.  When we finished he went to the playground!  Mal hates any kind of physical activity.  It cracks me up when he says that, because he's learning Tae Kwon Do.

Anyway, there really isn't a lot I can say about this beautiful area.  I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.  We ended up parking at the top entrance.  Don't ask, it is a long, sad story involving antique cars and a road race and me not actually knowing how to reach the alternate entrance.  We walked down the Indian Trail, which is usually the direction I go, because coming up the Gorge Trail is way more beauteous.  *Usually* I am headed down the easier trail *after* walking up the stairs.  Oh the stairs.  Did I mention the stairs?  About 832 of them.


There's also a cemetery on this trail.  Xav stuck to me like glue until we were well passed it all.

Dad pretending to be irritated with us.  :)
If you walk all the way to the end, you do end up duplicating some of the hike back.  But it was in the 80s with 99% humidity.  I am not friendly with humidity.  My glasses were fogging up the whole hike!  Anyway, because of that, we went on down to the gift shop and refreshment area for cold water and lemonade.


After checking out some of the bajillion and three cars in the lower parking lot, we headed back up the Gorge Trail.  This is the entrance from the lower end.  You first come in on a bridge.  I love that tunnel-cave thing on the right.


Here are six of the 19 waterfalls on the trail.  So amazingly beautiful.  I really {bigfatpuffyheart} this place.


There were tons of learning opportunities along the way, though they can't tell you everything on the display signs. 


I really thought this one about fractures was interesting.  Of course, it was set up right near the most fascinating example of a fracture.


Another one of my favorite spots.


A few more random shots.  I love the spiral tunnel.  We used to always pretend it would be full of bears.  Thankfully, it never was.  Not even this time.


Climbing Jacob's Ladder.  We're nearly back to the top.  180 steps to the end!  I may have briefly thought I would die.  But I didn't have any knee trouble, even with those stairs.  Those STAIRS!  sigh...  I'm so happy to be losing the weight that was becoming so damaging on my joints.


Resting at the top.  I was just a few steps below.  Last one up's a rotten egg!


It has been *many* years since I've hiked this and it's a real jewel of the Finger Lakes.  If you ever travel to the area, definitely make a stop at the Watkins Glen State Park.  Parking was $8/car.  The trails are really well groomed and maintenance stays right on top of things.

The boys and me before...


and after.  Sticky, tired, proud.  And thirsty.

Sep 7, 2016

My Journey ~ Weight Loss August 2016

Well, August ended up being a completely wasted month.  The second week, I kind of pooped out and stopped tracking points.  I definitely do better when I track.  It isn't difficult, really, especially with the Weight Watchers app.  I just didn't feel like it.  Don't get me wrong, I didn't give myself a free month.  Boy!  That would have been awful!  In week two, I did gain half a pound and spent the last two weeks getting rid of it.  I ended up exactly where I started.  Pleh! 

I did get some new bling.  The summer TRY-a-thon runner and a 14 week tag were added this month.  Try-A-Thon was fun.  It was all about trying something new every week of the summer.  You could try a food, fun activity, or exercise.


But I'm ready for September and hoping to add two more *very special* charms to my key ring.  Bring it!

Sep 6, 2016

Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronoomy, 2nd edition TOS Review

Exploring Creation



Apologia Educational Ministries has released their new Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition set and we got to review it!  I had already been through Apologia's previous Astronomy course with the bigger littles a few years ago.  I liked it very much and we had so much fun with the experiments and activities.  Unfortunately, the information had become outdated.  Many of the things we read *would* be happening had already occurred when we went through the textbook and Jr. Notebooking Journals.  It was, after all, written twelve years ago.

What we received.


  • Student Text
  • Notebooking Journal
  • Jr. Notebooking Journal
  • Audio CD

What's different?
I still have our old textbook and journals because I fully intended to go through Exploring Creation with Astronomy with Merrick for his first grade science next year.  I even purchased the previous version of the Jr. Notebooking Journal for him because I felt I couldn't justify the purchase of a new textbook for just one more kiddo.  How wrong I was!  Of course the information in the textbook is all updated, but the text and pictures are much more readable and attractive, too.

Student Text


Look at that spiffy new book!
Like the other titles in the Exploring Creation science series, the Student Text is a sturdy hardcover.  It is 216 pages long.  The corresponding Notebooking Journals, Science Kit, and Audio Book are each sold separately.  But the Super Secret Code to access online extras is included in the book introduction.  The course website has links to nearly 200 related websites, all listed with the lesson they relate to.

These are comparisons of the new (l) and old (r) text on corresponding pages.

Each of the 14 lessons is divided into several sections, activities, Wisdom from Above passages, Think About This boxes, and What Do You Remember? summaries.  You'll also find a symbol in the pages of the text which indicates an activity in the Science Kit.

The lesson topics include
  • an overview of astronomy, 
  • the sun, 
  • each of the eight planets, 
  • Earth's Moon, 
  • space rocks, 
  • the Kuiper belt and dwarf planets, 
  • and stars, galaxies, and space travel.
The Jr. Notebooking Journal (grades K-2/3) and the Notebooking Journal (grades 3/4-6) are *huge* soft cover journals (336 pages each) for recording all of the information covered in each lesson.  They are spiral bound so they lay flat or can be folded over on themselves.  These make a wonderful keepsake to look back on all that's been learned and can be proudly shown to family members.  I still have both of the bigger littles' Jr. Notebooks, so I was able to compare them with the new Jr. Notebooks.  If you're familiar at all with notebooking or lapbooking, many of the projects will be recognizable to you.  Students will cut out and assemble mini books, complete crossword puzzles, write copywork, record what they learned from activities (dictation is completely acceptable), and even color pictures in the Jr. Notebooking Journal.

The regular Notebooking Journal does not have coloring pages, seems to go deeper into some of the lesson content, and has smaller lines to write upon.  This was actually my first look at the regular journal and I was pleased to see how closely the lessons and activities tended to run the same or very similar.  While my bigger boys won't be doing astronomy with Merrick, there will be other years that I'll be keeping them all on the same subject.


The photos above show a comparison of the new and old versions of the Jr. Notebooking Journals.  The sun lesson, in which Merrick also drew all of the planets, is shown next to the old sun mini book page.  Next to that is the new version of the solar eclipse booklet in the old page.  The last photo shows the difference between pages for a later lesson on space rocks.  The previous version had only been a page of boxes to write and draw in.  The difference is tremendous.


Here's Merrick showing off his newly developed cutting abilities to make his sun wheel mini book.

All journals are consumable, and each is intended to be used by a single student.  This is one of those times I have no qualms about providing one for each child.  They have so much fun using these.  In fact, Xavier volunteered to work on the regular notebook for me and has been thrilled to complete activities with Merrick even though he has already covered this material and has his own science lessons to complete!

The journal lists a suggested daily schedule that breaks each lesson into four to seven assignments.  Completing two assignments per week will give you a full year course.  We school year round and I tend to break those assignments down even a bit more, to keep the sitting parts to a minimum for the littles.  We generally will still complete one Apologia science in a calendar year.

Audio CD
The audio book is read by Jeannie Fulbright, the author.  She has the sweetest voice and the boys love listening to her.  You can pop the CD into a computer and listen to the MP3 tracks or load them onto your phone's music player.  Some CD players will work, but I couldn't change tracks on mine.  I didn't mind if we hear the CD intro a couple of times, but I wouldn't care to start at the beginning each time we used the CD with the text.  Using a laptop wasn't a great option, as the kids have several online school programs and that would tie up the computer that someone else could be using.  The text is read nearly word for word, so a decent reader could follow right along in the text.

Experiments and Activities
These are found throughout the text and are labeled by chapter and a number.  For example, 2.2 Using a Magnifying Glass to Focus Heat (aka melting chocolate and butter) means it is the second lesson and second activity.

This experiment was fun *and* yummy.  Who doesn't love that?  We wanted to see how chocolate and butter reacted to exposure to the sun. It was super hot and windy that day.  We had to place rocks on the plates to keep them from blowing away.  Don't worry, we didn't try to melt them.  Photo one shows things just melting naturally. The chocolate did not look melted, but the boys were surprised to discover it was.  In the center photo, we used the magnifying glass to really direct the sunlight into a very small area on the food.  We were shocked when the chocolate actually started to smoke!  We even burned a small black spot into this square of chocolate (and the porch) with this technique.  The final photo shows a large dot magnification.  This concentrates the sun a bit less, so it took longer and, once again, the chocolate barely looked melted until curious fingers poked it.


This was also a *great* lesson about not looking at the sun!

Be careful!  You really can set things on fire with a magnifying glass!  Oops!
We had this sundial in a space kit we own.  While studying lesson one's Clocks, Calendars, and Seasons, it felt like a good time to get it out.


Here's Merrick demonstrating Earth revolving around the sun.  The funny thing about this was that he acquired these important science tools at the fair!  I've found that we can often use everyday items to reinforce our lessons.  One thing the text regularly asks of students is to tell someone what they have learned.  It helps make the lesson stick.  And Merrick loves to tell and teach!


I've said this before and I'm sure I will say it again, I've never used an Apologia product I didn't really love.  There are so many other courses on my wishlist.  They're a favorite Christian homeschool publisher.  Go explore the farthest reaches of space with your little astronaut!

Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy is for grades K-6.
The Notebooking Journal is for grades 3-6.
The Jr. Notebooking Journal is for grades K-3.
If your student is somewhere in the transition age, I recommend checking the website for the journal samples to choose the right journal on an individual basis.


The Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy Science Kit has just been released and it's 15% off through midnight Friday night, September 9, 2016.  The kit contains the things you'll need for the 42 activities in the textbook plus an additional 21 activities.



Another recommended resource for Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy homeschool science curriculum is the Field Trip Journal.  Some of The Crew have reviewed it previously.


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Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

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Sep 3, 2016

Little bundles of joy... TEA!

I went to a baby shower last week and had so much fun.  Can't wait to hear all about Holly's little one when she arrives!  Dr. Seuss was the theme.  Kids were welcome for the Seuss-olympics, so I took Xav along.  He's my guy who is really outgoing and loves to be around other people.  Merrick is like that, too, but he also would need my supervision and I don't attend baby showers so I can watch my own kids.  :D

The hosts did a great job with games and fun gifts for Mama.

 and Seussical food


and I had the best time chatting with so many other mamas.  I also won a prize in the baby item pricing game.  I was less than a dollar off from the total.  (Don't tell anyone, but that's because I was under a dollar on a few items and I was over a few dollars on one item.  It all balanced out.)

Ceramic canister with silicone lid filled with tea!
I hope you're sharing and having fun with your friends.  And remember, you're *all* winners!

Aug 30, 2016

HomeSchool Scholastics TOS Review

 Building healthy families at home.


My decision this spring to get myself moving and healthy has been difficult for Xav.  He has been concerned that I've been "starving" myself.  Though I have been explaining nutrition, healthy eating, and sensible portions he seemed to really struggle with the idea of "denying" yourself food.  He seems to think if you eat a healthy meal, you can fill the time between meals with all the empty junk you want.  The WAY Comes Home Kit from HomeSchool Scholastics, an i4 Learning Company is helping me teach the boys more about the better choices I've been making and why it is important for all of us to look after the bodies God has given to us.


WAY stands for Wellness, Academics, & You.  Originally, developed in 2005 for use in schools, the new WAY Comes Home Kit was created especially for homeschoolers.  WAY combines physical activities, vocabulary, and learning activities about health, nutrition, and fitness. The WAY Comes Home Kit includes tons of items to help you teach your family a bit about all those topics.


UN-boxing day was a blast!  The kit comes with an Instructor/Parent Guide, DVD with video clips and exercise segments, student journals (3 options based on age/grade level), a balance scale, plastic eggs, three small bins, a stethoscope, ink pad, WAY Comes Home to MyPlate booklet, vocabulary cards and activity pack, and glitter.

The Parent Guide and Journals (for K-1, grades 2-3, and grades 4-5) are all softcover books.  The journals vary in length from 40 to 64 pages.  The Parent Guide is 144 pages.  The boys loved that the journals have a blank cover for them to personalize any way they wanted.


There is also a consumable packet of WAY vocab cards and illustrations.  This pack includes the cards for all three levels.  Copyright allows for copying some of the pages for games like matching.


All of these cool pieces are included in the WAY Comes Home Kit.  There was just so much.  You can see why the boys were so excited to unpack the box when it arrived.

For ease of use, the Parent Guide is color coded by the three age levels.

  • Health Safari - blue and green for K-1
  • Me Mysteries - orange and red for 2nd-3rd
  • Innerspace Adventure - purple and blue for 4th-5th or 6th
In this manner, parents can quickly locate the activities for each module and the appropriate grade.  The PG has all of the information needed to facilitate the modules for one or more children.

Each lesson begins with a synopsis for the parent, followed by a list of required and some optional items for that level, including on-topic library books.  Vocabulary words are listed and followed by activities that involve reading, demonstrations, and discussions.  These are followed by possible ways to include children in the household who are working at other levels.

Some of the activities in L to R Health Safari, Me Mysteries, and Innerspace Adventure.

There are plenty of blank pages in the journals for recording information and completing activities from the Include Me Too! sections, but the books aren't actually set up to do exactly the same thing across the age levels.  Part of this makes sense, as children at different levels understand the information differently and may need different instruction.  As the parent teaching three kiddos at different levels, it would have been more convenient if everyone was recording basically the same things.  For instance, in module three one book had a chart to record the student's resting, active, and recovering heart rate.  Another level has several blank, lined pages for recording all physical activity and related information for one week.  The third level has pages for drawing pictures.  I would have loved a simple chart in each book.  We all completed the activity and recorded the information, because heart and respiration rates are an excellent indicator of how we are working our bodies.  I think WAY works best for multiple kids at different levels if you chose a level to work on, then do the activities that incorporate other ages.

The journaling pages in the upper grades and K-1 books.

The lessons can be completed in a week or so or could take much longer with all of the other optional activities.  The topics remain the same for each module even though the journals do not cover them in the same way.  There are so many things to choose from and books to read, this could keep us busy for much of the school year.

Module 1: Getting Started - The importance of learning about health and wellness.
Module 2: Where Do You Begin - Students learn how to assess where they are now and document the information so they can review personal progress.
Module 3: Let's Get Active - Explore different types of physical activities.
Module 4: The Nutrition WAY - Learn about healthy eating using the MyPlate Guidelines.
Module 5: Health-It's Personal - Everyday health and hygiene practices are learned in this module.

You may know that technology is not my friend.  I've looked and looked for pictures from our germy/moldy bread experiment and cannot find them anywhere!

I do, however, have pics from the glitter experiment WHICH WE DID OUTDOORS!  Here, Xav was contaminated by glitter germs.  If you've ever worked with glitter you know it *is* just like a contamination.  He shook hands with Merrick and we examined the cross contamination that occurred.  After that, they went around touching the railing and other things around the yard, happily spreading their glittery germs everywhere they went.

Spreading germs.
The DVD in the WAY Comes Home Kit includes skits to introduce WAY and each module to the kiddos.  They're often humorous skits with similarly aged children in the upper two levels.  The Health Safari segments are more like watching book pages as the audio plays.  The exercise component is also included with the DVD lessons.  These fun, short aerobic workouts are available in a variety of musical genres.  You can also choose the length of time you want to exercise.  We tried a few out and while they're fun, they definitely got out hearts pumping!

There is also an online component available to purchasers.  We didn't receive access to it, but I understand new content is added every month and lessons in math, science, and technology are being planned.  This is a terrific Homeschool health and wellness curriculum.

As of right now, the entire WAY Comes Home Curriculum kit is $10 off the regular price of $49.95.  As a special offer to all Schoolhouse Review Crew readers there is an additional discount of $15 which will about cover shipping to most locations!  Simply use the code GC0737011 at checkout.
 
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WAY Comes Home Kit Review

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