Friday, May 27, 2016

Heroes, Heroines, And Tales of Ancient History

We love history in our house and have enjoyed using other products from Golden Prairie Press, so I was excited to review Heroes, Heroines, and Tales of Ancient History with my kiddos. 

Amy Puetz, owner of Golden Prairie Press, publishes books that show history at its best and from a Christian worldview. It is her desire to "bring encouraging, uplifting, family friendly resources to Christian families and individuals." Audio books, cook books, books specifically for boys or girls, costume books for various time periods, curricula, and more--there's something for everyone. Most of the resources are e-books or digital downloads, but there are some options for printed books, as well.
The Heroes, Heroines, and Tales of Ancient History Curriculum was created for students in grades 1-6, but can be adapted to be be used for kids both younger and older. The curriculum collection has many components: part 1 & part 2 of the actual ancient history book, additional materials CD , historical skits book, Sing Some Ancient History CD, and Listen to Some Ancient History MP3 CD.  
Heroes, Heroines, and Tales of Ancient History Part 1 & Part 2 Books
This 30-week curriculum can be easily used with different ages and grades. Most lessons have a section for 1-2 graders that contains a larger font and basic overview of the stories. Immediately following that portion is the material for the 3-6 graders, which contains the same information just more advanced and more detailed. There are many options at the end of every lesson for review: questions, writing topics, geography, recipes, timelines, Scripture memory, examining historical art, period games, and more. 

Additional Materials CD
This is full of supplemental materials for the lessons. It includes printable timelines, game boards, quizzes, instructions, videos, and more. It is written at the end of the lesson if you need to pull a resource off the download. Some lessons require the materials; others do not.

Historical Skits Book
This book contains 10 skits from the time of ancient Greece to the early Christian era. Skits are a great way to bring history to life. Titles include Pandora's Box (Greek legend), Romulus and Remus Meet Their Grandfather (Roman legend), Alexander Learns a Lesson in Justice (300 B.C.) and more.

Sing Some Ancient History CD
This download has 9 songs that are mentioned throughout the book along with some sheet music. It has songs such as "Cherry Bloom," "Softly Evening Shades," and "Song of Moses and Mariam." My kids are used to listening to music through the day, while performing various tasks or just for entertainment. They enjoy when I play this, as well.      

Listen to Some Ancient History CD
This is an audio collection of 22 original speeches, poems, Bible reading, letters, and documents that are mentioned throughout the book. It includes "The Code of Hammurabi," "The Prayer of Jehoshaphat," "Nicene Creed," and more. There is a lot of important information included in this collection. 
Additional Materials CD (Ancient History)
This curriculum package is extremely thorough. It has so many components that enhance the learning and make it enjoyable. The lessons can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes. The lessons begin all the way at Creation and end with Saint Patrick in 385. It has many recipes like Egyptian bread, date cakes, stewed wild cherries, a Persian chicken dish, and a Roman pear dessert and multiple crafts like a bow and arrows, sling, Pharaoh hat, rotating drum, wax tablet, Roman bracelets and brooch and many other hands-on projects.
You can buy the components separately or purchase the entire set (physical or digital) for $98.99. You can use coupon code ANCIENT today only to receive FREE shipping on the printed version.  
If you're looking for a unit study ancient history curriculum for your homeschool, I suggest you check out this one. 
*I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sunya Publishing Review

Schooling tends to be a bit relaxed around here. I'm a firm believer that little ones learn best through play. That doesn't mean that we don't do any book work, but that we incorporate fun and hands-on learning often in our days. Games are an easy way to combine learning with fun. So when we had the opportunity to try out a brand new game from Sunya Publishing, I knew my little ones would be happy to play.

Sunya - The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Adding & Subtracting (they also sell a multiplication & division version) is a card game for ages 7 and older. Players take turns making math facts. There are two different games that are played similarly, one for addition and one for subtraction.  

The game includes the following:
  • Parent/Teacher Guide Book
  • 60 Adding & Subtracting Playing Cards
  • 30 Math & Science Fact and Riddle Cards
  • Adding & Subtracting Number Line
This is such a new product that it's still in development. The Schoolhouse Review Crew was given the special privilege of testing it out. Because of this, there might be some kinks that need to be worked out.

The game itself is simple to play, but the directions are rather wordy. Some parts took me a few reads before I figured out the rules. I'm hoping they simplify the wording before going to print, because the game really is a good one. 

A number sentence (either addition or subtraction) is placed in the middle of the table. Each player begins with 5 cards (after being dealt 4 and drawing 1). He then makes a new number sentence using just the cards in his hand or a combination of those and the cards on the table.

For instance, if the sentence on the table reads 4 + 3 = 7, a player can place cards (2, 5) directly on those to create a new fact such as 2 + 5 = 7 or he could change it altogether, such as 6 + 3 = 9.

If a player does not have a play in hand, he draws one card at a time until he can play. There are also rule about reverse plays, wild cards, exchanging cards, the 0 and 1 rule, and an optional rule for blocking. If anyone needs help solving an equation, he can use the included number line card.   

The game proceeds until someone plays all of his cards in the number sentence. Sunya is a word from Sanskit, meaning empty or void of any quantity. In the game, the first person to play his last card declares, "Sunya!" and wins.

The winner then gets to draw a math & science fact and riddle card from the pile to read to the other players. The cards are filled with things like "How is the moon like a dollar?" and "What is a googolplex?"

The three older kids (10, 8, 6) and I have been playing Sunya. Since the main objective of the game is to strengthen your math skills, helping each other make sentences is encouraged. The kids like this part because it means that it doesn't matter if the other players see your cards. In other words, they don't have to try to juggle all their cards in their little hands without anyone else seeing what numbers they have. The riddle and fact cards have been a big hit too, as our whole family loves solving things like that. There have been lots of laughs as we play the game and many "please, can we play one more time?" In fact, we've been having so much fun that one of them said, "Wait, that was school?" I'm always happy when they're enjoying learning.

The guide book lists a couple other variations of the game, but we haven't tried them just yet. They both start with the basic game, but then get more difficult as more rules are added. The book also gives some suggestions for math activities using the number cards to be used with younger children. 

Our family has enjoyed this game. If you're looking for a simple game to encourage math abilities, you'll want to keep up with the news from the new company, Sunya Publishing.

If you'd like to read more reviews of this product or of the Multiplication & Division Game, please head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 4/29/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (8), Zac (6), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! Did you Smile this week?

1. Zac: "I heard the growl of a thunder storm."

2. Tyler, trying to decide between two snacks: "Do I want dis one or dat one? . . . Dis one. Hey, dis one starts with a D!"

3. Tyler: "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Tyler: "Banana."
Me: "Banana who?"
Tyler: "Banana I never said orange!"


5. Tyler: "Ahoy, you matey!"
Me: "Tyler, I can hear you all the way on the other side of the house. Pirates need to be quiet sometimes."
Tyler: "Yeah, because babies are sleeping."

6. Alyssa: "I love Nicky so much that I gave him my biggest blueberry."

7. Zac (kindergarten): "Mom, give me a hard addition."
Me: "Ok, what's 125 + 175?"
Zac, mentally figuring the solution: "300."

8. Zac: "Dad, now you give me a hard one."
Leighton: "What's 1,524 + 1,323?"
Zac, again mentally figuring the solution, without the numbers being repeated: "2,847."


10. Me: "Since you two won't stop being mean, you each have to do two nice things for each other. And the other person gets to pick one of the things."
Jake: "I know what nice thing she (Alyssa) can do for me."
Me: "What's that?"
Jake: "Take away once nice thing that I have to do for her!"

11. Alyssa: "Who doesn't like tacos?!? Crazy people, that's who."

12. Me: Ugh, I don't think I got pictures of you painting that." (for a review)
Jake: "Uh oh, that's not going to be good for your reputation."

What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 4/22/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (8), Zac (6), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)

Happy Weekend! This Smiles are from a few weeks ago, as I'm still trying to get caught up. So much going on here lately, but we need to make time to Smile!

1. Zac, holding his hands out: "It was this tall. Or it was shorter or taller."

2. Alyssa: "I thought this was a free country . . . I shouldn't have to do math."

3. The kids made (with some help from daddy) and raced pinewood derby cars at our church's Grand Prix. We brought home trophies for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for speed and 2nd and 3rd place for design.

4. Me: "What does aversion mean?"
Jake: "Well, Mary was a virgin because she had Jesus when she wasn't married."

5. Zac: "I made up a joke: What dessert does a balloon not like? . . . Popsicles!"

6. Commercial: "What's in your wallet?"
Jake: "That's none of your business!"

7. Me: What are sentries?
Jake: "100 years."


9. I stayed home from church because Nicholas wasn't feeling well. I listened online to Leighton teaching Sunday School. Nicky's face lit up as he walked up to the computer. "Da-ddy! Da-ddy!" He had a big smile as he was trying to find his daddy on the screen. 

10. Alyssa, right after Nicholas ripped her notebook: "I love Baby . . . even though he's a nuisance sometimes."

11. Tyler: "I don't want you to tell Daddy that I'm going to play at {the neighbor's house.}"
Me: "I don't keep secrets from your daddy . . . except for fun surprises."
Tyler: "To me, that's a fun surprise."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Sculpture Technique: Construct Review

My oldest child has never been a big arts & crafts guy. Coloring, painting, and drawing are fine for a few minutes, but then he's off doing something else while the other kids are still crafting away. He does, however, thrive on constructing, building, assembling. (That's why LEGO is such a huge deal in out house.) When I saw that ARTistic Pursuits Inc. has published a book that will teach him certain skills through means that appeal to him, I was excited. The Sculpture Technique Construct book combines art and his love of constructing. 

Sculpture Technique Construct is the book you need when you get the urge to make something with your hands. It will take you step-by-step through the processes of sculpture building, while giving you the confidence to make it uniquely yours. The book focuses on 4 types of sculptures.

Unit 1: Creating Form in Papermaking
Unit 2: Creating Planes in Cardboard
Unit 3: Creating Motion with Papier-mậché
Unit 4: Creating Volume with Wire

I looked through projects with my son, discussed them a little, and let him decide where he wanted to start. It came as no surprise to me that chose the messiest option: papier-mậché. 

The front of the book lists all the arts supplies that are used for each project and are broken down by unit.

Unit 3: Creating Motion with Papier-mậché art supplies:
  • wheat paste
  • gesso
  • #8 round brush
  •  1 - 1 1/2 inch bristle brush
  • acrylic paint set
  • plastic paint pallet
  • masking tape
There are other items needed, as well, like scissors, newspaper, foil, various containers, and anything else you wish to use to construct your sculpture.

We didn't have the exact supplies that the book lists, but since both art and homeschooling can be adaptable to your needs, we used what we already owned. Instead of wheat paste, acrylics, and masking tape, we used white flour, tempera, and duct tape.   

The directions take you through the entire process, from planning out your design to the completed creation.

  • Materials, Properties of  Papier-mậché
  • Assembling a Papier-mậché Creature with Motion
  • Papier-mậché Construction and Balance
  • Evaluation
It covers tools and equipment, safety, instructions, static and dynamic movement, techniques, and more. It even has a section on advanced methods where it discusses how to make repairs and add texture.

The first project is making a creature in motion. My son came up many ideas before he settled on a snake feeding. Snakes, yep, another thing he likes. 

He taped empty toilet paper tubes together in a curved fashion to form the snake. He used tin foil at the end to shape the tail. For the snake's meal, he cut and formed another tube into a rat-like shape. The head was to be inside the snake's mouth, with the back portion of the body and tail hanging out, so the sculpture would capture it in mid-feed. Boys.

When it came time to add the papier-mậché, he discovered that his baby brother had gotten a hold of his "rat" and dismantled and crushed it before his snake could enjoy his dinner. Plan #2 became creating the snake as he was striking his prey, instead of eating it.

This was his first experience using papier-mậché. I hadn't done it myself since I was about his age. Since he's 10, he could do everything on his own. It took my showing him how much paste he needed, how to scrape off the excess, and how to apply the strips of newspaper a couple times, but he did everything himself. His technique was sloppy at first, but after a few tries, he proclaimed, "This is easy!"

He like just swirling his hands through the paste and enjoyed the activity like sensory play. His happiness caught the attention of the other kids. I soon had everyone crowded around the table wanting to "play."

When he finished, he told me, "It was too fun to not do again, so I'm going to have to do it again." And he did. He used his new-found papier-mậché techniques to make a piñata. He filled it with candy that we had in the cupboard and hung it in a tree. He and the other kids had fun taking turns hitting it with a bat. They especially liked when the piñata broke open, sending the candy flying through the air.

After the papier-mậché snake was completely dry a couple days later, he painted it. We found a picture of a rattlesnake for him to reference. His mixed his colors and painted the entire thing in his main color. Then he added accents and pops of color to make it appear more realistic.

Once the paint was dry, he applied the fangs by cutting paper clips, shaping them, and hot-gluing them in the snake's open mouth.

My son enjoyed this project from beginning to end. The book is written so that he could understand it by himself since it thoroughly explains the steps of the processes at his level. He's already looking forward to his next creation.

While he may never be a craft-loving boy, I appreciate this book and the skills he can learn from it. These hands-on projects are sure to bring fun and learning into our days.

ARTistic Pursuits offs many books to involve children in the creative process of art and help them develop skills. They also teach art history, art appreciation, techniques and tools for drawing, painting, and sculpting. The full-color step-by-step art lessons are sure to appeal to the students.

You can connect with ARTistic Pursuits on the following social media site:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this book or are interested in one of the others, please head to the Schoolhouse Reiew Crew blog.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Music Appreciation

We are a music-loving family that understands the importance of good, quality music in our lives. That's why I was excited to review a product about music appreciation. Leighton went to college for a music major. We were both very involved in the music program while there (in fact, it was while playing in the handbell choir that we got to know each other and fell in love!) and continued to participate in various aspects of the music program in our church. You can often hear music playing or random singing while in our house. Yes, we love music. However, I've never incorporated music study into our days. Oh, I meant to; I just never knew where to start or how to proceed.

And then came the Music Appreciation: Book 1: for the Elementary Grades. We started our study with Bach and quickly learned that this wonderful homeschool music program from Zeezok Publishing LLC was exactly what I needed.

Zeezok Publishing LLC was started by homeschoolers in 1993 who wanted to offer top quality materials that complement educational needs. They have a variety of curricula and supplemental materials like their Z-Guides to the Movies, Civil War series, Presidential Penmanship, A Noble Experiment, literature books, and more. They continue to expand their resources and are dedicated to offering publications that will enrich, educate, and edify. 

The Music Appreciation Book 1 Collection meets and exceeds all of the national standards required for music appreciation for kindergarten-6th grade. The set includes a student activity book, music discs, lapbooks, and individual biography books for 7 classical composers (dating from 1685-1828).  

The curriculum covers 4 weeks of study for each of the composers:
  • Bach
  • Handel
  • Haydn
  • Mozart
  • Beethoven
  • Paganini
  • Schubert
The biographies are absolutely perfect for this age level. From the size of the book to the font to the writing style to the pictures, it's everything a child's book should be. My older 3 kids (ages 10, 8, 6) loved the book and begged me to read "just one more chapter" each day. The accurate story was written so the elementary ages can comprehend, but also has richer vocabulary woven throughout. It includes words like trudged, haste, nestling, oaken, and scarcely. Nearly every page or page spread has a black and white picture that seems perfect for the era. There are even portions of sheet music written by Bach sprinkled throughout the the book.

The student activity book contains the learning exercises for all 7 composers. The entire book is perforated and hole-punched, so you could transfer it to a 3-ringed binder for easier use. A sample lesson plan is given at the beginning of each composure section. 

Week One of the Bach study looks like this:
  • Read Chapter 1
  • Answer Comprehension Quesions
  • Character Qualities
  • Tidbits of Interest
  • Assemble Lapbook Folder
  • Bach Family Facts
  • Places that Bach Visited Map Activity
  • Learning About Stringed Instruments Activity

This curriculum is very easy to use with multiple ages. I read the book aloud to the kids and then we completed the activities together. They always race to see who can answer the comprehension questions first, and I enjoy seeing how much they retained. There's so much more than just answering questions though. There are exercises about learning character qualities, mapping, random facts (did you know Bach's hands could span 12 notes? or that he had 20 children?), history of 18th century Germany, copywork, and plenty of  sections dedicated to music (i.e. terms, instruments, styles). 

While we've enjoyed all aspects of this study, our favorites have been the hands-on activities. We made a loaf of rye bread and enjoyed it warm, fresh from the oven like Bach. We preformed an oxidation experiment with pennies to understand why the top of St. Michael's church in Hamburg turned green. We even were able to pluck out some of Bach's compositions on our keyboard using the music in the book.

Along with the written music, the curriculum comes with discs so you can listen to the music, as well. The book gives a brief description of each song and lists the matching track number, making it incredibly easy to use over the course of the study. The kids and I all enjoyed listening to the beautiful music of one of the masters. We do listen to classical music at times throughout our days, so it was fun to watch the kids faces light up as they recognized songs. "Hey, this sounds familiar!" or "I've heard this before!" we commonly heard as the songs played.

The final component to the curriculum is the lapbook. My kids adore lapbooks. They're time-consuming and require much work, but they are such a fun way of learning. I like that my kids will look through their lapbooks long after our study is complete and recall what we've learned. Booklets, pockets, pieces, moving parts--they're all part of the lapbook charm. This one even includes an entire game board on the back that's focused around Bach's life. 

As far as lapbook go, this one is easy to print and easy to assemble. There are no directions to print any of the pages on cardstock (though it would provide stability), so it's just a click of a button to get the whole thing to print at one. The pages print in color, which saves time during the assembly, as well. There are detailed directions in both the student activity book and the lapbook CD for the activities and assembly.

I am blown away at the quality of this curriculum. Seriously. It is packed full of information on not just the composer, music, and instruments, but incorporates much more, too. And not only that, it's fun! Between the reading book, the exercises, the hand-on activities, the music, the lapbook, there's something for every learning style--visual, kinesthetic, auditory. We've started our study Handel, and I can tell this one's going to be a hit, too. 

If you are wanting to teach music appreciation in your homeschool, I highly recommend this collection.

You can connect with Zeezok Publishing LLC on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this curriculum, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 4/16/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (8), Zac (6), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)

This was the week we went on a short vacation to Boyne Mountain and made lots of memories. We had fun building new LEGO sets, picking out some books and the thrift store, and making the best of our snowy April vacation. Lots of reasons to Smile! 

1. Alyssa: "The mountain was bigger last time we were here."

2. Alyssa: "What's a pirate's favorite letter?"
Me: "Rrrrrrrrrr!"
Alyssa: "No. X, because X marks the spot and always means treasure."

3. Jake: "How is sugar not good for you? I mean, it comes from a plant!"

4. Jake solved his 4x4 Rubik's Cube for the first time. 

5. Leighton, because I went out of the room for a few minutes to do laundry and Nicholas was getting into everything: "How do you get anything done all day at home?"

6. Tyler, the day after we got home: "Mama, you're the only one here that's big."
Me: "I know. Isn't that sad?"
Tyler: "Yeah, 'cause Daddy's not here."

7. Jake, about Nicholas:"His toes are so small, I just want to pop them off."

8. Eating at a pizza parlor.

9. Taking a bubble bath in the jacuzzi.

10. Building a snow-mommy and snow-baby (because I stayed in the room with Nicholas while Leighton took the big kids out to play in the snow).

11. Skipping stones.

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review

My kiddos love to draw, paint, and make crafts. I love seeing their creativity, but don't always appreciate the mess that comes along with it. Some days you just need a no-mess form of fun, am I right? That's why we were excited to try Kwik Stix Neons 6 pk and Kwik Stix Metallix 6 pk. These crafting supplies from The Pencil Grip, Inc. are just what we need on the no-extra-mess-please days.

The Pencil Grip, Inc. was started in 1992 by Dr Lois Provda, an educational therapist. The company has been selling unique and innovative products for the school, home, and office ever since. They offer the original ergonomic pencil grips (like this one we received) that encourage proper writing skills, textured products that appeal to sensory-seeking kids, basic office supplies, and more.

The Kwik Stix are solid tempera paint sticks. Now, we don't always have to pull out the paint, brushes, smocks, and cups whenever the kiddos want to create masterpieces. With these paint sticks, they can simply uncap, twist, and paint to their hearts' content.

Not only does do the stix save on supplies, they save on space, too. If I have the four older kids sitting at the table and painting at the same time, we quickly accumulate dozens of wet, sticky pages. My counters are covered in these creations until they dry. The fast-drying formula of the stix though allows the color to dry in only 90 seconds. That means that the pages can be placed in one big pile, without compromising the picture. When a child completes a page, he can immediately add it to the top of the pile, instead of finding an empty place on the counter . . . or desk . . . or table . . . or anywhere else that isn't already covered with wet painted pictures.

The Kwik Stix remind me of glue sticks or a big tube of lipstick. The "paint" is waxy and slightly tacky. They silkily glide across the paper as you swipe. Using them is more like coloring than painting though since you draw instead of brush the color around. The finish on the page is paint-like with a shimmery sheen though, so the completed project looks like it was painted.
We've used these stix on paper, coffee filters, wood (like popsicle sticks), and styrofoam plates. The paint easily colors them all. My kids have been having so much fun creating crafts and pictures with these. They love being able to pull them out whenever they want. I love the versatility and lack of mess.

We also own the Kwik Stix 12 pk which contains regular colors like red, blue, black, and white. Having the original colors along with the neons and metallix means that the kids have lots of choices to create anything they can dream of.

Their favorite thing is simply painting on a blank page, but my favorite is the bouquet of coffee filter flowers they made to adorn the kitchen table. Not only are they pretty and fun to make, but they also won't die in a week!

These stix are convenient, easy-to-use, easy-to-store, and mess-free. We keep all of ours in a plastic box, so we can grab them whenever the kids feel the creative bug biting. We can take them outside, in the car, on vacation, or at the kitchen table. They're simple enough for even our one-year-old to color pictures, too (even though our boy doesn't, you do need to watch to make sure little ones don't put the stix in their mouths).

The Kwix Stix have been a huge hit in our house--with kids and mom alike! They have told me many times how much they like having the stix. If you're looking for a mess-free, fun, and easy form of art, these Kwix Stix may be just what you need.

You can connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see more cool creations using the Kwik Stix paint, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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