Sunday, December 21, 2008

Motherboard Books: Computer Science Pure & Simple

I have always loved technical things, expecially computers. Unfortunately, I still don't know much about how they work or the technical terms. So when I was told I was going to get this curriculum I was really excited! We were so blessed to get Computer Science Pure and Simple book 1 and book 2, and we also got MicroWorlds EX software (which is needed for this curriculum). This course is geared for 5th grade and up.

I absolutely love this curriculum. It is very well-laid out for the student. Actually, this is perfect for anyone who wants to learn about computer science. The lessons are not childish at all, yet they are not over your head (I'm talking over the parent's heads because we all know that kids these days know so much more than we do when it comes to computers). So I do the lessons ahead of the kids, not only so I can keep abreast of what they are learning, but because I want to learn it too.

In Book 1, they offer a comprehensive intro to HTML, how to use notepad and the other windows accessories software already on your computer. It also covers more about word processors, programming drawings, animations and games using LOGO language (which is found on the software sold with the curriculum). You will learn how to format a newsletter and how to work with a spreadsheet.
Here's a link to see a sample page from book 1:

Book 2, builds on book 1 and provides more work on programming using LOGO language, spreadsheets, and how to make a multi-page website. Your child can also create their own games.
Here's a link to see a sample page from book 2:

Each of the above mentioned books covers one year of computer science. You can purchase them seperately or as a set. Book 1 costs $29.99, Book 2 costs $32.99, and the set costs $161.98. Motherboard also offers computer courses for younger kids; LOGO Adventures(8-12yo), Let's Make a Webpage(8-12yo) and Let's Make a Webpage jr (for 7-9yo).

Phyllis Wheeler is the creator of this curriculum, she is a mechanical engineer who has taken a number of programming courses throughout the years. She created this curriculum so she could teach her children computer skills. With this curriculum she not only taught her children but taught at her co-op as well. I am very thankful that she decided to share this curriculum with the homeschooling world. Check it out for yourself:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Schoolside Press: The Little Man In The Map

The Little Man in the Map by E. Andrew Martonyi, Illustrated by Ed Olson

When I heard that we would be reviewing this book, I was intrigued. A little man in a map that has clues to remembering all 50 states? How would that work and who or what is a little man in a map?When I opened the book and started reading I was shocked! The little man in the map has been in front of our eyes all this time and no one has ever noticed it before. The man in the map is literally comprised of 5 states in the middle of the U.S.

How cool is that?

This story is about a little man in the map (named MIM) who teaches children how to remember all 50 states through stories, clues, acronyms, rhymes, and pictures. Another nice feature is that they split the map into regions or smaller chunks, making it easier to memorize. There is a lot of information that is packed into this book, so it really could be done as a mini thematic study.

This book is a charming, imaginative story that would work well for most children learning about the states. My kids all enjoyed this story, even my older kids! After I read this story to my younger kids I left it sitting out on the table, just to see if any of the older kids would notice. I was pleasantly surprised to see my older kids each pick up the book and read it. They all thought it was a fun book to read, and they even said that they had learned something new from this book.

The hardcover book is priced at $19.95, they also sell a 38x22 inch laminated wall map for $21.95 . Also on their website they have coloring pages from the book that are free to download. Another book is in the works for learning the state keep an eye on for more information on their upcoming book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the Christmas Season

Well as the Christmas season and Advent winds its way into our daily lives we must add extra time onto our school day. It is only about an hour but their is so much I want to cover before this season is over. We have learned about different Christmas trees and then went to a tree farm and just explored so many different ones.

As we try and stay focused on our daily tasks. I try to have a fun activity to do at the end. Just a little something for them to look forward to. We are doing a fun unit in Social studies of Christmas's around the world. We have learn a game and a craft from the countries they chose and explored where it is on the map. We will also end our season with a birthday party for Jesus.

Christmas is also the perfect time to add books to our library so that is on the christmas list for our schoolroom we let the children make a list of things that they would like in the classroom and then Santa brings some.

Well, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas.

Spears Art Studio

When I found out that I was going to be reviewing an art curriculum I was so excited! This is one area that we often skimp on each year. I always wanted to teach my kids about art; art elements, perception skills, drawing, painting..etc. But I am no artist, and finding a curriculum that was geared towards someone who has no art background was difficult.

Along came Spears Art Studio and what a blessing this was for me!Spears Art Studio was created by Diane Shields Spears, who has an extensive background in education and art. She has taught in both private and public school systems.

I was fortunate to receive the Spears Art Studio High School Art Survey curriculum to review. Spears also carries K-8 art curriculum, calligraphy, and literature guides for 4 children's books. All of the curriculums are reasonably priced and can be purchased either in hard copy or on CD-Rom. All of the curriculums are taught from a Biblical World View.

The lessons in the High School curriculum are very well laid out and written to the student. I really liked the fact that they list the materials needed for each lesson at the beginning of each lesson. There is also a full list of materials that would be needed for all the lessons, making it easier for you to gather all materials (or those hard to find ones) at the beginning of the year. In the High School Art they cover art elements, perception skills, drawing, painting, visual memory exercises, scripture connections, and much more. You can check out samples of the high school curriculum here:

Some other great things about Spears Art curriculums are that they are non-consumable, the K-8th is all in one package, and the high school level can be easily stretched out to two years....which makes it well-worth the cost.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Our homeschool Christmas Party

We had our homeschool Christmas party last night.What a blast about 10 families and about 30 kids.Everyone either brought an appetizer or a dessert.I brought sausage cheese balls and the disapeared FAST!!!

One of the most important thing for homeschooling moms i feel is getting together with other homeschooling moms and last night was wonderful.I got to see friends i havent seen in awhile as well as some moms i've recently spent time with.

The kids are also making new friends within our group as well.They got to decorate gingerbread cookies and also make ornaments with glass balls and pouring paint into them then shaking makes such beautiful colors and is such an easy craft.We will be making some here soo i have a feeling.

The kids also got to play a game which li'l J won and got a 15$ gift certificate to Target.It seems like my kids are always winning something within this group but i guess when you have 6 kids its all about the odds.

So yes we have a wonderful homeschool group and i love it.I hope all of you and yours enjoy this christmas season.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Sense-ible Season

What a perfect time of year to do a lesson on the 5 senses! Our younger 2 "students", ages 5 and 3, started a lesson on the 5 senses this afternoon. We started by reading a Usbourne book about the senses. They learned new terms like nerves, receptors, and spinal cord.

After reading and discussing all we could about hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting, and smelling we ventured to the kitchen for our big project - Gingerbread Men. Gingerbread men are a wonderful teaching tool for this topic. They have dry, wet, and gooey stages. They have strong smells and a very distinct taste. You can use so many colors to decorate them. Gingerbread men are just an exciting part of the Christmas season!

The boys had to use their ears to listen to directions. They smelled each of the spices as we needed them.
They also tasted each ingredient before we measured it and put it into the bowl. When the recipe called for cold water, we all went to the sink, where they had to figure out if the water that I turned on was warm or cold by putting their hands under it.

Then both boys described how they received the information from their hands to their brain. They also had the chance to touch the sifted flour and the gooey dough before it went into the frig to chill. While the cookies were cooking we read the Gingerbread Man story. The part of the project that they found to be the most fun was the decorating. They shared that task with all of their brothers and sisters. The very best part, of course was tasting!

Colors, sizes, textures, tastes, listening skills,& smells. It's all there in one cookie recipe. That one recipe not only brought about a learning opportunity but also gave our home a warm holiday feel.

For more Gingerbread lessons check out these links:
Gingerbread theme Lesson Plans
Gingerbread Mini Unit
The Gingerbread Baby
Teacher Vision: Gingerbread Man
Gingerbread Man Lesson Printables and More

Scientific Cake Making

One of the things I love about homeschool is that schooling is not on a set schedule. Mind you, we endeavor for a set time every day, but since the home setting is more relaxed, our weekly learning can extended into the evening and on weekends. Also, there is a lot of impromtu learning. Now, I am proud to say that we have always been in the mindset that learning never stops. Even when our kids were in public school, we used every opportunity we could to talk about things and enrich our children--and there were teachers who even commented that they could tell we did. However, now that we are formally focusing our learning at home, that has expanded.

We were making a gifts for family recently. Cake in a Mug. It's a pretty simple recipe and you can find the details HERE. I have learned the hard way that you should always try a recipe first before serving it to others. So, with that in mind, we set out to taste-test the gift recipe. What should have turned out to be a 1-2-3 thing, ended up turning into much more.

First of all, the original recipe was off time-wise. The 2 minutes noted was far too much and we ended up with a burnt batch. Then there was a question as to the ingredients and some modifications I had made. In order to assure we were giving our family and friends the best gift, we realized that the recipe would have to be tested, and all the variations tried, as well as some variations we weren't planning. As we set out on this mission, Jim started telling the kids about the scientific method. He explained that while this was cooking, the same principles applied. I suggested that we should make a formal chart and record our progress. And we did.

We ended up doing 6 different versions of the recipe, altering different aspects. Jim kept track using a makeshift chart, which you can look at here. In the end, we determined that test-recipe #2 was the best. However, it was really helpful to have all of the information in front of us, and the kids learned a lot. Not to mention they had a lot of fun.

I do have to admit, after all of the testing, I didn't want to see another bite of cake for a while! Still, as we were having fun making gifts for our family, there was a great deal of satisfaction knowing our kids were learning in the process. I know that those kinds of things should be a given in homeschooling, but they still bring joy, and remind us that what we're doing is good and valid. Particularly when some of us face such criticism, to have moments like that are priceless.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Staying Motivated

As the holidays approach, I think one of the hardest things about homeschooling is staying motivated. There are certainly enough distractions with holiday plans, gift-giving (or gift making), baking, parties, and decorations. Getting the kids, and yourself, focused, can be a chore.

I know this is also a problem for public school teachers too, so I guess I shouldn't feel so bad. Most schools are very happy and excited about winter break, because by then it truly is a much-needed vacation from schoolwork. The kids usually come back much more recharged.

So, how do you get that recharging when you are already at home? In our first full year of homeschool, that is our current challenge. My solution has been to mix things up a bit. We are incorporating more computer work, utilizing educational programs and some great websites. We are doing unit studies incorporating the holidays, so the kids can get festive while learning. We are doing a lot of unschooling, in the sense that we are talking a lot, turning free moments into learning moments. Still, sometimes the kids just aren't up to it, and neither is the teacher.

All of that said, I had always viewed the first few months of homeschooling as a "getting our feet wet period". For such a big change in our lives, I'm really happy with the way it has turned out. But, I also realize that when the holidays are over, we'll need a bit more structure to our day. Taking a cue from MOTH (Managers of Their Home), I have put together a formal daily schedule. We've already used it a bit, and I'm excited. I feel that after the holidays it will really allow us to shake things up in our homeschool yet again!

When talking to the teacher of my autistic son, she said that she often felt like she strapped on her roller skates every morning and would just see where the day would take her. I think that really describes homeschool. There are days that go way off course, and there are days that go perfectly. The balance is simply accepting that is how it is and accepting that's okay. As we review what we have learned and take various tests about the material my kids have learned over their first 3 months of schooling, I am excited how well they are doing, and that they still are eager to continue learning. It's very heartening, even when the holidays throw you a bit of a curve-ball.