Friday, July 29, 2016

Orphs of the Woodlands

Our latest review has been a fun one! Our summer school schedule is pretty light and includes reading every day with a few learning-filled activities added in. My philosophy for our family is that schooling is a way of life, meaning that we look for the learning opportunities in everything we do. The kids are especially happy when I tell them that we're watching a movie on TV or playing a game on the iPad for "school." 
Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree falls in that latter category. This app from Star Toaster is an 122-page, interactive book that can be used on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 8.4 or later. It's great for ages 7+ and is a good transition to chapter books. 

Along with encouraging reading and improving comprehension, this app teaches much more.

  • math
  • thinking skills
  • vocabulary
  • science
  • grammar
  • the arts
  • character
  • life skills

The story follows Abba, a flying squirrel from Hoggoh Hollow. There was a terrible storm, causing the dam to break and flood his home and the entire hollow. All the other critters are missing except 6 orphans, or orphs, from the Woodlands. It is up to Abba to care for the orphs, which include 4 babies, all while gathering supplies and looking for his father. He travels all over the Woodlands to complete his tasks. 

In order to for Abba to buy the necessary supplies, he must complete jobs by helping other critters. He visits many occupations in Stumptown.

  • Beaver Builders: This section reviews math concepts, like counting by 100s; tally marks, fact families, etc..
  • Woodland Watchers: These jobs encourage thinking skills including paying attention and memory tips.
  • Woodland Scurrier: This is where the vocabulary practice is found and focuses on compound words, homonyms, definitions, and more.
  • Brainstormers Inc.: This science section contains videos and information about predicting weather, pulleys, animals, and other things from the book.
  • Pinecone Publishers: These grammar exercises include similes, nouns, and types of sentences.
  • Gopher Gifts & Supplies: The arts encourages impressionism through paintings.
  • Cricket Cards-- Some of the character traits highlighted in this section include your life speaks, be patient during trials, and you write your history.
  • Critter Cafe: These jobs teach life skills about nutrition through information about nuts and blueberries.

My kids absolutely loved playing this! My daughter (8 years) started as soon as I set up the game. She loves to read and was excited to see what the game was about. She has a soft spot for babies and felt bad for the little orphs. She couldn't wait to earn enough stars to purchase each new supply. At first, she was confused by some of the questions asked in the jobs areas, because the story didn't mention them. I showed her how all that information was in the job training section before each task. She was able to figure out everything on her own after that.

My son (10 years), on the other hand, was reluctant to try the game. His sister had completed the entire game before I finally told him that he had to play it. After the first day, he said, "Wow! This is so much better than I expected!" By the second day, he had finished the whole thing. He is a fast reader, but he also skipped all the job training sections and completed the tasks either by prior knowledge or guessing.

After they enjoyed it so much, I created myself an account and played too. The chapters are short and include many rich vocab words. The game is colorful and allows you to earn rewards along the way and keep your attention. It covers a wide range of subjects without feeling overwhelming.

This is what the kiddos had to say about it:

"I loved it. I liked reading and answering questions. I learned that frogs and toads croaked loud and long before it rains."

"It was pretty cool! I like that when you answer questions you earn stars to get stuff for your orphs. I like that they came up with so many backwards and forwards names like Hattah, Hoggoh, and Stots."

If you're looking for a way to encourage the love of reading, increase reading comprehension, and teach other subjects in fun way, Ophs of the Woodlands is a great option. My kids are eagerly awaiting the next story.

You can connect with Star Toaster on the following social media sites:

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

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 6/24/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! This week we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary and took time to reflect on our memories. Oh, how we've been blessed over the years. We have so many wonderful reasons to Smile.

1. Jake: "My eyes exploded out of my head."
Me: "Why?"
Jake: "Because you're so beautiful."

2. Tyler told me that the bathroom "looks good as new," which is a good thing, since everything in it is new.


4. Alyssa: "Zac and Nicky are some of my favorite brothers."

5. The Father's Day questionnaires the kids filled out.

6. Jake: "I set up twelve 4x2s (Legos) like Dominoes. They all fell down except one. It reminded me of Joseph and his brothers. (in the Bible)

7. Zac, playing with Nicky: "That never gets old
Me: "What?"
Zac, laughing: "The face he's making."

8. We spent the day at The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

9. There was a little boy dancing around the living room naked.
Me: "Where are your clothes?"
Tyler: "I go-ed potty."  
Me: "But where are your clothes?"
Tyler: "In the baffroom."
Me: "Why?"
Tyler: "Because I go-ed potty."
Me: "But why did you take off your clothes? Did you pee-pee in your pants?"
Tyler, laughing: "No!"
Me: "Then why did you take off your clothes?"
Tyler: "Because I go-ed potty."
Me: "That's good, but why didn't you put your clothes back on?"
Tyler: "Do you want to see where they are? {takes me into the bathroom and takes the lid off our new hamper} Look, they're they are!"
Me: "Why did you put them in there?"
Tyler: "Because I thought they were dirty!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Beric the Briton

Heirloom Audio Productions  has become one of our favorite companies. Their audio dramas are some of the best we've ever heard, and we were thrilled to be able to review their newest one.

Our schooling is very literature-based. Our family loves read-alouds and will often sit together to read various novels for hours on end. I love reading my kids quality literature and sharing that time with them. Not only does it teach them life lessons, it also introduces them to new vocabulary. The only problem is that I don't always have the time to spend the day reading. That's why we love to incorporate audio books and dramas into our days. Whether we're folding clothes, driving in the van, or just needing some downtime, audio books are perfect. Beric the Briton has become the newest "favorite" in our house.

Beric the Briton is a theater-quality production based on the novel with the same name, written by G.A.Henty. We've listened to many different audio books and dramas, and none has ever compared to the quality of those by Heirloom Audio Productions. If you close your eyes, you feel as if you're there in the story. Think of it as watching a movie, but with no picture. The music, the actors, the sound effects--they all make the story come to life. You hear swords clanking and can visualize men fighting for their lives; you listen to the sounds of the wolves and lions and you feel the terror the characters felt; you hear the winds roar and the waves crash and you feel as if you're the one in a violent storm. It is that realistic. The narrator has a rich, powerful voice that makes the drama exciting to listen to. We were immediately pulled into the story.
The story takes place in the first century during the reign of Nero and the Romans' rule of Britannia. It follows the life of Beric, a Briton who was a slave to the Romans yet admired them, their power, and their way of life. Throughout the story, he fought wolves to save a woman and her children, became chief of his people, fought in many battles, was captured by the Romans again, was taken to Rome, experienced a horrible shipwreck and saved his enemies, became a Gladiator for the entertainment of his captors, and fought a ferocious lion with only a self-made rope and won. In all this, he remained true to his word, was an honorable man, and became an example to many. Along with the non-stop action and exciting adventures, there are plenty of morals and Biblical truths taught along the way.

Beric the Briton single package costs $29.97 (+ shipping and handling). Along with the 2-CD set, you will receive 3 bonuses:

  1. Beric the Briton Study Guide (digital download) -- This complete guide is used to enhance your learning and complement your study. Each section, which correlates to the tracks on the CDs, is  filled with review questions (Listening Well), ideas to get you thinking deeper (Thinking Further), and vocabulary words (Defining Words). There is more information about G.A. Henty, Nero, and Queen Boadicea; multiple Bible studies that coordinate with the story, many pictures from the times, and much more historical information. 
  2. Printable Copy of Inspiration Quote (digital download) -- "I will gladly die for him who died for me." This inspirational quote can be printed and framed to remind you of God's omnipotence.  
  3. Beric the Briton Soundtrack (MP3 download) -- Our family loves soundtracks. This beautiful music was written by Emmy-winning composer John Campbell (creator of the original score for C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, Adventures in Odyssey, and more). We've enjoyed listening to this moving music while doing school, cleaning house, and folding laundry.
There is also an option of a family four-pack. For $99.97 (+ shipping and handling), you get 4 copies of the 2-CD set and the bonuses listed above, along with additional bonuses: Live the Adventure E-Newsletter; G.A. Henty's original Beric the Briton e-book; professionally designed, printable promotional poster; and a behind-the-scenes documentary featuring the cast and crew.  

Here's what my kids had to say about the story:

"It's awesome! I loved it."

"I like when they kill the wolves. It seemed so real."

"It was cool when Beric defeated the lion with just a rope!"

The 2+ hour audio production is ideal for ages 6-adult, but our entire family enjoyed listening to it. We used the study guide questions to review the story and tackle difficult topics. We stopped the CD multiple times to discuss things like Gladiators, Gaul, what it means to really be a Christian, honor, strategy, and more. Of course, the little ones didn't quite understand everything, but it's never too early to introduce quality literature. This will be a story that we reference throughout the years. Beric the Briton is a wonderful resource to have.

You can find Beric the Briton on Facebook or connect directly with Heirloom Audio Productions on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this title on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 6/10/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)
Happy Friday! Renovations continued with our bathroom this week, we enjoyed some outdoor fun, and loved making memories as a family. 

1. Jake: "Mom, you did a great job picking out the vanity . . . The cardboard box it came in is great!" 

2. Tyler, sitting in church: {whispers} "Mom, it's a good thing you don't have chest hair."

3. Nicholas took a nap during the morning church service. That always translates to a rough Sunday afternoon at home. I tried to get him to sleep. He cried. I tried. He cried. I finally got him up. He smiled and played with my phone for a few minutes, but quickly became crabby and threw a tantrum. I told him, "You are not being a good boy. I'm going to put you back in bed." Immediately, Australian Siri told him, "Well, I'm still here for you."


5. Alyssa: "Zac and Nicky are some of my favorite brothers."

6. Tyler, after he made me bite my lip: "Is your lip still getting bigger?"
Me: "No, it stopped swelling, but it still hurts."
Tyler: "Maybe you need lipstick."
Me: "Why would I need lipstick?"
Tyler: "I said maybe."


What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Once Upon a Time in Latin

My kids are fascinated with foreign languages. It had been a while since we formally studied one, so I was pleased when a review for Laurelwood Books became an option. The idea of speaking and understanding a language not common in our area is especially appealing to my oldest (10 yr). While he has dreams of learning the Elvish language (yes, seriously), he was equally excited about studying Latin. He's pleased because it's a dead language; I'm pleased because of the benefits that stem from it.

Latin may not be one's native language any longer or be continually evolving, but its influence can be found all over. Not only will understanding Latin be beneficial for learning the Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian), but it will give a better understanding of English, as well. I have fond memories of learning morphemes (the smallest part with meaning of a word). We'd sit around the table making up our own words by combining prefixes, suffixes, and roots.  Throughout the years, he taught me that I could have a basic understanding of almost any word (and could even understand many foreign words), as long as I had a grasp of the individual parts. Many of our morphemes stem from Latin and can be found in various areas of study, like medicine, astronomy biology, history, dentistry, law, and mathematics, to name just a few. It's because of this connection to our own language that I was excited to use Olim, Once Upon a Time in Latin: Derivatives I.

Derivatives I focuses on studying Latin words and the English words we derive from them. It can be used as a stand-alone vocabulary builder or as a complimentary resource to any Latin program. In fact, the words used in this curriculum are pulled directly from the first three volumes of Olim, Once Upon a Time in Latin reader series by the same author.

A two-week schedule is recommended for each lesson of 10 vocabulary words.

Week 1
Day 1: Trace Latin and English Words
Day 2: Exercise I: Fill in the Blank
Day 3: Exercise II: Matching
Day 4: Exercise III: Story with Blanks

Week 2
Day 5: Exercise IV: Multiple Choice
Day 6: Exercise V: Write Your Own Story
Day 7: Crossword or Word Search Puzzle
Extras: Write Derivatives (every 5 lessons)

There is a detailed pronunciation guide in the beginning of the book. It breaks down each letter and its sound, explains double letters, and lists rules for accents and syllables. It also describes macrons, the diacritical mark indicating a long vowel.

The Latin vocabulary words in the book fall into 3 categories: verbs, nouns, and adjectives. For each word, the book lists the Latin word(s), the meaning, and the English derivatives.

1. dicere, dīcit, dīxit (v)                  to say, (he) says, (he) said           diction, dictionary
2. prīmus, prīma, prīmum (adj)       first                                             primary, premier
3. exīre (v)                                    to go out, exit                              exit

The exercises are fairly simple. My son completes them in 5-10 minutes each day. He's a little disappointed as he thought he'd be learning to speak Latin, rather than just learning random words. We did look up some videos so we could hear how it's spoken. The pronunciation guide is helpful, but he needed to hear it to fully understand. He doesn't appreciate the benefits of what he is learning just yet. I've tried explaining that this book is truly helpful in understanding English and decoding words he doesn't know. He just gives me one of those looks in return. I know, I know, one day he'll appreciate it, ha. Until then, I will have him continue to complete the exercises, if for nothing other than the English vocabulary he's studying. He is still interested in speaking Latin. I think this book would be a wonderful resource to use alongside an actual Latin curriculum.  

If you're looking for a good way to learn some Latin words and see how they've influenced the English language, Olim, Once Upon a Time in Latin: Derivatives I is a good option.


You can connect with Laurelwood Books on their website and Facebook.  

You can read more reviews of this book or of one of the many other resources reviewed by other homeschoolers on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Things That Make Me 5/27/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! This was the week we completely demoed our main bathroom. The kids had so much fun tearing it apart and making a huge mess. I plan to write up a detailed post one day, you know, once I get caught up om everything else, ha. Speaking of which, I posted another Smile list yesterday. In case you missed it, you can read it here

1. Tyler: "Am I getting bigger?"
Me: "Yes."
Tyler: "Yeah, because I keep eating. The more you eat the bigger you get."

2. Me, after a stressful morning: "Ok, this day just needs to be over. Bedtime for everybody."
Jake: "Ok! Can we just skip to Friday?" (because we always go to my parents'.)

3. Friend Day carnival at church.

4. Jake: "I tripped and fell while holding my water balloon."
Me: "Well, that's not good."
Jake: "My balloon didn't pop, but my skin did. Here and here."
Me: "Do you want a band-aid?"
Jake: "Band-aids are for sissies."
Me: "No, band-aids are for blood."

5. Jake, making funny faces at Nicholas: "You think I'm weird? Mom puts mud on her face."   

6. Tyler and I were playing a game where I kept trying to kiss him. Every time he'd get away, he'd say, "Missed me, missed me! Now ya gotta kiss me!" and he'd pucker proudly for  kiss. Over and over again. 

7. Alyssa brought a book with her to the store.

8. Tyler: "Mama, how old are you?"
Me: "34."
Tyler: "How old is Daddy?"
Me: "33."
Tyler: "Oh, yesss!!! You're older! That's why I love you so much."

What made you Smile this week?

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