Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Greatest Inventors Review

I often to refer to my kiddos as little inventors. They love to create new things, whether they use Lego pieces or bits of odds and ends found around the house. We go through a lot of tape, string, and rubber bands, and I find various projects in different stages all across the house. They're always explaining new inventions to me. In that sense, they are so much like their daddy. Probably my favorite thing that he's created is a motorized wagon with benches that he designed from an old wheel chair. It's the perfect convenience when we spend a day trip at places like zoos and museums. It draws attention everywhere we go, and I feel so much pride when people stop to ask questions and praise his invention.

Because of that creative gene and their curiosity, I knew my kids would enjoy a study of The Greatest Inventors from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks.

A Journey Through Learning was started by two homeschooling moms. When they commented that there was a lack of quality, hands-on materials that covered fun topics, their husbands encouraged them to start their own business. Over the course of the last 10 years, they experienced some early struggles and a devastating event, created many products, won multiple awards, and have built a thriving company. While their passion is lapbooks, they also offer unit studies, notebooking pages, and copywork pages.

Lapbooks are a fun, hands-on way of learning and recording information. Each lapbook is focused on a topic of study and then filled with various mini-booklets of key information. They do require a little work, as there is printing, cutting, folding, gluing, writing, and whatnot involved, but the process is fun and helps to cement the information in the student's mind. Plus, it serves as a great refresher later on as the student flips through and remembers the information. These lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning are designed to be as simple to use as possible. They even have various videos that describe what they are and how to set them up.

The first many pages of the download are filled with the how-tos of the book. There's a list of supplies, the assembly of the book, tips and tricks, picture diagrams, and more. The rest of the 67-page book is the study guide and mini-booklet patterns. The format is such that there is a study guide page for an inventor, and then there is the accompanying pattern pages for that inventor for the lapbook immediately afterward. This setup makes it super easy to find what you need.

Another aspect of this book that makes it simple to use is that there are diagrams at the top of every pattern page to show you exactly where the mini-booklet is placed in the lapbook. There is also a full diagram of the whole lapbook in the beginning pages of the book, but these small diagrams throughout are very helpful as you're working your way through the material. I did find one mistake though. The mini diagram lists the Guglielmo/Marconi booklet as being in folder one, but the main diagram shows folder two. Since we already had another inventor in that spot in folder one, when we got to that, all we had to do was check the main diagram in the beginning of the book.

Just as I assumed, my kids enjoyed learning about the various inventors and their creations. The material is not a full-blown description of each person's life, but just a brief summary with an overview and tidbits of information. Some of the study guide feels a little disjointed. For instance, they list some of the events in Marconi's life, mention his death, and then immediately talk about when he was drafted in the Italian Army, his service there, and more of his life.

You can choose to use the study guide as a simple introduction to the inventors, or you can use it as a springboard for further study. Since we've been on a summer schedule, this was the perfect amount of work for a day. The kids and I would read the one-page description of an inventor, make the mini-booklet, and add it to our lapbook. There were a few times when we would look up more information, like a video of a working cotton gin or a picture of an ear phonautograph, but mostly we stuck to the material in the download.

The lapbook itself is more basic than other lapbooks we've created. There aren't spinning parts or detailed features. Instead, these are simple and can be created quickly. Everything is printed on plain, white printer paper, so there's no swapping paper for colored or cardstock. I think both versions have their advantages, but if you're looking for convenience and ease, A Journey Through Learning is the way to go. There are also easy-to-understand directions at the top of every pattern page that explain what needs to be done for the mini-booklets.

I think The Greatest Inventors was a perfect summer study and definitely plan to incorporate more lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning in our schooling.

You can connect with A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this lapbook an of some of the other products offered by A Journey Through Learning on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 8/18/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week, the kiddos painted, read books, and played with Legos. Things will be different around here for a while as I heal from a bad ankle sprain. The kids are helping out more, especially with meals, and my mom has come over to help some days, too. Of course, Leighton is picking up the majority of my responsibilities around the house in addition to his own daily tasks. The situation is not ideal, but it reminds me just how thankful I am for this family of mine. I am truly blessed and have numerous reasons to Smile. 

1. Tyler, getting tucked in at bedtime, dreamily: "I could hug you until morning."

2. Jake: "It is so weird how some cars have the engine in the back. It's like putting the cherry under your ice cream."

3. Jake: "Is the opposite of productive deductive?" Or antiductive? Or is it just ductive?"
Mae: "None of them, but good job with your prefixes. What's another prefix that means 'not'?"
Jake, thinking: ". . . Un! Unproductive!"


5. Alyssa, after I commented about something: "That's what Dad said."
Jake, because this type of situation happens often: "How many times are you and Dad going to say the same thing? For the rest of your days?"

6. Nicholas: "I wike you, Mama."

7. Me: "I'm hungry."
Jake: "From my experience, saying 'I'm hungry' doesn't make a hamburger appear in front of your face. Trust me, I've tried." 

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Kids Cook: Southwest Cheesy Chicken & Rice

Ok, I'm going to be honest up front and say that this is not a pretty dish. What it lacks in appearance though, it makes up for in taste. 

I mean, my pickiest child asked for 4 helpings of it. 


He said, "This is way better than I thought it was going to be!"

I think that was a compliment. Ha. 

Leighton had planned to assemble this in the crock pot the night before, but with all the extra responsibilities and craziness around here because of my injury, it completely slipped his (and my) mind when it came time to do it. We realized it the next morning. 

Oops, I'll have to grab something on my way home.

Nah, don't worry about it. The kids can handle it.

It is really cool having kids who can cook. Jake got the first few ingredients cooking in the crock pot before he headed outside to play with his friend, and the last few were taken care of just before we ate. 

The recipe calls for 4 cups of rice, but the typical directions for jasmine rice produces only 3 cups. I could have explained how to increase it, but for simplicity's sake, we kept it as is. You could use white, brown, or long grain rice, too. Anything would work in this. 

We garnished ours with sour cream, extra cheese, and crushed tortilla chips, but other southwest flavors would be good too, like green chilies, jalapeños, cilantro, guacamole, or a squirt of lime. 

The whole family liked this dish, and it's an easy one for the kiddos to make. Just don't wait until you sprain your ankle to have them make it for you, ha. 

Southwest Cheesy Chicken & Rice
5 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
8 oz Velveeta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 cups cooked rice

1. In a 6-quart crock pot, add chicken breasts, taco seasoning, tomatoes, black beans, and corn. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 5 hours.
2. Remove cooked chicken and cut into bit-size pieces.
3. Add Velveeta and cheddar cheeses to crock pot and cook on high for 15 minutes.
4. Stir crock pot to make sure cheeses have melted. Stir in chicken and rice. 

Recipe adapted.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kids Cook: Spalfredo

I sprained my ankle last week. 

Not a simple sprain, mind you (because where's the fun in that?), but a grade 2 high ankle sprain. And to top it off, I also managed an eversion sprain and an injury to my shin, as well. The pain encompasses both sides of my ankle, the entire foot, and up through my leg. If you're going to do something, do it right. Right? I'm 7 days in and I still can't put any weight on it whatsoever. The healing process is going to be lengthy.

But this isn't a woe-is-me post.

Since I can't get off the couch and my family still requires food for sustenance, I knew I needed to do something. I gathered some simple meals that Leighton or the kids could throw together. No, these aren't our typical from-scratch, homemade meals. Though cooking is a passion and I love to create healthy dishes for my loves, this isn't the time for that. This is a time to keep things as easy as possible while everyone else is doing Mom's chores. This is exactly why it's so important for me to train my little ones, both to know their way around the kitchen and to know how to do chores around the house.

I picked meals for this week and then let Alyssa choose which one she wanted to prepare for Kids Cook Monday. Normally, the child has to pick the meal on his own, either by looking through cookbooks or just thinking of a favorite dish. Since I wouldn't be able to oversee the process, we went this route for now.

Alyssa chose spalfredo. 

Spalfredo? It's a pasta dish that combines spaghetti sauce with alfredo sauce. Clever name, right? We've been making this on vacation for years, because, again, it's super simple to make. I like to add ground beef and onions to it to give it more substance. You could toss in a variety of veggies to increase the healthiness of it, too, or swap the beef for chicken. It's a perfect base recipe, but still delicious as is. It's good paired with a nice garden salad, but I didn't want to give my 9-year-old too much to do on her own. 

Alyssa also made a loaf of bread in our machine to go with it, and since my mom was here helping because of my injury, she walked her through that recipe. She needed help getting the big pot of water on the stove and again to drain the boiling water. Otherwise, this dish is perfect for a child to prepare. 

It's a hit with the whole family, though Alyssa will tell you she prefers it without the parmesan cheese on top. I'm sure she'd think differently if it were freshly grated, but we're going with simple, remember?

I can't cook for my family right now, but I am so thankful my little ones have the skills they need to do it for me. I'm so proud of these kids and their abilities. 

And knowing that Mom trusts them to assume responsibility and do it well means they're pretty proud of themselves, too. 

1 box penne pasta
1 jar (24 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 jar (11 oz) alfredo sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup parmesan cheese

1. In a large pot, cook pasta until it is not quite al dente (it will finish cooking in the oven). Drain water.
2. Add spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, and mozzarella cheese to the pasta in the pot. Mix well and pour into a 9x13 pan.  
3. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly. 
4. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and bake another 5 minutes. 

Recipe slightly adapted. 

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The Everyday Family Chore System

Curricula for the kids aren't the only products I get to review as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew. This one from Everyday Homemaking is more for me--and any parent really, not just homeschoolers. One might think that since I'm a full-time, stay-at-home mom that I have this whole thing under control. Ha. While I absolutely love being a homemaker and all that entails (even the cleaning!), I struggle like anyone else to get it all done. That's why it's important to have a system in place for accountability and structure.

I take my role as "mom" very seriously. Not only is it my responsibility to teach my little ones reading, math, and history, it's also my duty to train them in life skills, too. When it comes to working around the house, The Everyday Family Chore System makes it easy to organize the responsibilities. 

As a mother of 8 daughters and a foster mom of almost 50, Vicki Bentley has experience in raising children and teaching them what it means to be a "responsible, caring, sharing part of your family." She wrote this book to help other moms see what worked for her family and to give them the tools necessary to implement the program. The book is broken into the following sections:  

  • Introduction
  • Part One: Laying a Foundation
  • Part Two: Implementing the Plan
  • Part Three: The Actual Chore System
  • Suggested Resources

In Laying a Foundation, Vicki explains the purpose of her chore system, in that it's meant to train your children to be responsible members of the family that diligently serve one another and to disciple them in life skills. She talks about having the proper expectations, establishing standards, having a working knowledge of family discipline, and showing your kids love.

"If you don't have time to do it right, you sure don't have time to do it over!" 
~ Vicki Bentley

Implementing the Plan gets down to the nitty gritty details. She includes a life skills checklist that acts as a guideline for training children. Each age from 2-teens has a list of possible skills in which you might begin to train the child to do. In parentheses after each skill is the age which the child might be able to complete the task on his own. For example, you might choose to start teaching a 3-year-old how to dust furniture, but he might not be able to properly do it on his own until age 9. Or you may train a 7-year-old to clean the bathroom, but he may not fully hone the skill until he is 12. She is very clear that this list is simply a guideline to help you, not to be followed strictly. Each child is different and has different abilities. As an example, she lists baking a cake and making pancakes starting at age 10 and being fully capable by ages 14 and 16 respectively. In our home, both of those skills are reached on their own, years before her suggested age of 10. It is a lengthy list that includes more than cooking and cleaning, as there are skills such as building a fire, filling out a job application, changing flat tires, planning a workable budget, and much more.

In this section, she also describes the plan and gives suggestions of ways to set it up. She even has many tips you can implement to help your kids succeed, like having a routine, having a place for everything, labeling, making your home child-friendly, and others.

Part three is The Actual Chore System, meaning it contains printable cards for your system. There are individual card labels that name the jobs. They include the most common family chores and then there are several empty labels so you can customize your list for your own family.

There are also How-To-Do-It Cards that correspond to the majority of the jobs and a few extras. These 3x5 cards explain step-by-step how the task should be accomplished. This ensures that the child does a thorough job and does not forget any steps. It also acts as accountability so he can't claim that he didn't know a specific portion needed to be done. Some of the cards have blank spaces so you can fill in your chosen cleaner. I laminated all of my cards for stability and chose to do so without the blanks filled in. This way, if I decide to change my cleaner, I won't need to replace the card. I simply write on the laminated card with an overhead transparency marker, or a wet-erase marker. This way, the ink is semi-permanent, but can easily be changed with a little water and cloth.  

There are many different ways you can put the system together. I chose to use a plastic pocket chart that I used during my teaching-in-the-classroom days many years ago. This was incredibly simply to use, because once I had my cards printed, cut, and laminated, all I had to do was fill the pockets. The chart can stand up on its own, or I can collapse it to hide it away. There is also a large velcro pocket in the inside that I use to store the How-To-Do-It cards that are part of the weekly jobs in the chart.

As far as the other cards, I keep those in a 3x5 card box. Those are the jobs that don't need to be completed as often. We use these tasks for various things: weekly job from box, disciplinary purposes, seasonal cleaning, ect..

"Don't put it down; put it away!" ~ Vicki Bentley

I have seen many variations of chore charts over the years, but never one quite like this. This one isn't simply a list of age-appropriate tasks and a way to organize them, but includes valuable information explaining exactly how the child should complete them. The How-To-Do-It cards make this system stand out above the rest.

My kids are doing very well with this format. It's easy to keep track of the chores for the week and helps them to see what they need to do. They especially like doing the jobs from the box and often ask if they can do extras! We'll see how long that enthusiasm for extra chores lasts, ha.

Vicki also wrote a cookbook with tried-and-true recipes that we reviewed years ago. She is currently offering 10% off the Everyday Family Chore System and Everyday Cooking with coupon code TOS10books through September 5. The code is good for both the printed and digital versions.

You can connect with Everyday Homemaking on Facebook or the website.

If you'd like to read more reviews of the chore system or check out some reviews of the cookbook, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Phonics Museum App

Our family loves the Veritas Press Bible programs, so when we had the opportunity to review for the company again, I was excited. They offer materials for much more than Bible classes though, and this time, we we've been learning with their new Phonics Museum App.

Veritas Press was created by Marlin and Laurie Detweiler as a way to give their own children a classical education. After their curricula worked so well for their family, they wanted to make it available to other like-minded parents, as well. Since then, the company has grown to offer full curriculum, a publishing company, an online classical Christian academy, and two classical Christian schools. 

The Phonics Museum App is a multi-sensory program that teaches kids to read in a fun, engaging way. The student joins William and Wendy on an adventure through an art museum. Percival, a walking-talking suit of armor guides and encourages them as they look at the paintings, learn their letters, and discover that art can be exciting. They are then introduced to Miss Biddle, the quirky museum curator, as she leads the lessons. She's animated during some of the games and activities, but "comes to life" as she teaches the lessons to the student. Like the other materials from Veritas Press, this app follows the Classical Approach of learning, and not only teaches letters and sounds, but includes bit of information about artists and their works, inventions, history, nature, and more. 

The app was designed for early-readers in the 3-7 year age range, so it contains over 900 games, videos, interactions, real teaching, and memory songs to keep little ones engaged. A typical lesson has around 11 stages.  It always starts and ends with a video and has other activities throughout. For example, it might follow this format: video, song, video, game, video, game, video, game, video, game, video. A student must complete each stage of the lesson before he can move to the next, and he can see what each lesson contains by looking at the numbered easels with the appropriate icons. Sometimes the videos are simply Miss Biddle announcing the next activity, but mostly they are filled with teaching and silliness.  

The Phonics Museum believes in "edutainment," meaning games and learning collide and children don't even realize it. That's why there are 22 games that not only will the student enjoy, but also will learn to read while playing them. The games reinforce the learning by encouraging the student to recognize the individual letters--both upper and lower case along with both printed and written versions--and their sounds. The games are simple, but cute. There is a chipmunk that eats nuts, a frog that catches flies with his tongue, birds that happily splash in a bird bath, a catapult that launches paintballs that decorate the castle, and many more.  

One thing that I appreciate about the teaching is that for the games that focus on the sounds, there is a slight emphasis on the specific letter that is being reviewed. For example, during an M game, the student is supposed to touch the sarcophagus when Miss Biddle says the words that begin with the M sound. Mmustache. Boy. Penny. Mmoose. There is that slight emphasis on the /m/ to trigger the sound for the student. It is not overly done and the student himself might not even recognize it, but subtly it helps.   

My kindergartner is learning to read, so this app came at the perfect time. He loves watching the videos, playing the games, and reading the simple books. He adores Miss Biddle. Seriously, she must be the cutest teacher ever with her bold dress covered in letters, ribbons in her hair, her quirkiness, and her charming personality. She's a bit like Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, but not quite as eccentric and without the transforming bus. Many times I catch even my older kids watching the videos and laughing at the silliness. 

The museum contains 10 floors of interactive fun. The paintings come alive, the characters are silly, and the whole experience is fun. Most importantly though, it helps kids learn their letters and sounds--and ultimately how to put those together to make words--with a solid phonics-based program. I'm excited to watch my little one learn and explore with the Phonics Museum.  

The Phonics Museum App is available through iTunes. It is a complete curriculum on its own, but since it is a spin-off of the physical version, it can also be used as a complimentary aid. If you'd like to see the app in action, there is an informational video on the website.

You can connect with Veritas Press on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this app on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 8/11/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! I have a shorter-than-normal list today, because much of the week was filled with sickness. It always breaks my heart when my little ones aren't well, but we still make sure to find reasons to Smile. This week, we celebrated National Sea Serpent Day again,  I read the kiddos a complete chapter book (that we're reviewing) in one sitting, canned 4 batches of jam, and spent a bunch of time loving on my babies. 

1. Zac: "Mom, I love to hug you."

2. Tyler: "I can speak Baby."


4. Zac: "You're the best mother anyone could ever have. The prettiest, too."

5. Tyler: "Do you know what was my favorite thing in my whole entire life? The mirror maze!" (even though he thought he saw the exit, got excited, and ran straight into a mirror.)

6. Alyssa: "Whenever you make jam, a masterpiece is made."

7. Zac, going outside: "I'm going out barefoot."
Nicholas: "I go tippy toes!"

8. Leighton took the 2 healthy boys to the park to run off some energy while the other kids rested. They found a (huge!) painted rock and brought it home to re-hide as a family. 

9. Zac, reading my label on the jar: "Strawberry jam. I'll tell you what it's called: deliciousness."

10. Nicholas: "49 love you!"
Me: "49 love you?"
Nicholas: "Yeah!"
Me: "What does that even mean?"
Nicholas: "I don't know! 49 love you!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/28/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Monday! This week, we went swimming at a friend's house, Zac made a vase specifically for his grandma, we bought some books and played at the park. We also moved Nicholas out of a toddler bed into a full-size bunk bed, hoping that he'll finally start to sleep at night. What made you Smile?

1. Jake: "It's kinda cool waking up and seeing what happened to your hair at night. Sometimes this part is sticking out or this one, or it will be sticking up back here. You just never know."

2. Alyssa: "I love taste testing! It's my favorite part of cooking."

3. Zac lost his top 2 middle teeth in the same day.

4. Zac: "Mom, you were the first one I kissed with no teeth!"

5. Jake: "I have a special performance for you!"
He then, with a huge smile on his face, proceeded with a series of armpit farts.
Me: "And what do you call that?"
Jake: "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain in fart form. I thought it was absolutely hilarious!"

6. Zac: "Nicky is the cutest baby on earth! Jesus may have been cuter, but Nicky's the cutest baby on earth."

7. Jake, because the kids couldn't decide who got the last of a treat: "Hey, let's cast lots!"

9. Me: "Do you want to make this into one loaf or two?"
Jake, making cinnamon bread: "Two, so we can have more!"
Me: {blank stare}
Jake: "What? Isn't two better?"
Me: "Tell me you're joking."
Jake: "No, I love it, so of course I want more. Two loaves."
Me: "Turn this one batch of dough into two loaves instead of one?"
Jake: "Right."
Me: "And that's going to be more?"
Jake: "Yes, two is more than one."
Me: "But it's the same amount of dough!"
Jake: {blank stare}

10. Alyssa, reading a poem: "This is weird. It doesn't make any sense."
Me, after reading it: "It's written by the dog. Read it again like it's the dog talking."
Alyssa: "Well, that explains the improper grammar."

What made you Smile this week?
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Friday, August 4, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/14/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! The month of July was crazy busy for our family. This week, the oldest two kids went to junior camp for the first time, family from Texas came for a visit, and we went to the Toledo Zoo with friends. So many memories, so much fun.

1. Tyler, because Zac hadn't come to the table yet for his pb&j lunch: "Zachry, your sandwich is getting cold!"

2. Jake: "Next vacation, can we go sky diving?"
Me: "No!"
Jake: "Why, because it's expensive?"
Me: "That's not why."
Jake: "It's not like it's dangerous or anything. I mean, you're wearing a parachute."

3. Jake: "If at first you don't succeed . . . watch another YouTube video."


5. Alyssa: "Why are so many people scared of the dentist? That's like the silliest thing. The dentist is your teeth's best friend."

6. Tyler, in the aquarium at the Toledo Zoo: "Whoa! That's an ugly fish!"
Zac: "No fish are ugly, because God's creation is beautiful."

7. Leighton, to Nicholas: "Hold your pea-pickin' horses."
Jake: "He has horses?!"
Me: "And they pick peas."
Jake: "What! I don't even have a phone, and he has horses! Those are way more expensive."

8. Tyler, watching Leighton fill water balloons: "Dad, I am not the perfect water balloon target."


10. Nicholas, putting a cup upside down on my head, like a crown: "You pincess!"

11. Jake: "Want to hear the song I just made up?"
{singing to the tune of Oh, How I Love Jesus, verse}
"This is how I brush my teeth.
I brush them twice a da-ay.
I brush them 'til they're white as snow,
And brush the plaque away."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

In the Riegn of Terror

Our family appreciates the privilege of reviewing products as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew. Over the years, we've been introduced to some amazing vendors and have fallen in love with their products. Heirloom Audio Productions is one of our favorites. They have produced some of the best audio dramas we have ever heard and always make our family happy to learn history.

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. Along with that time spent together, 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. In the Reign of Terror is no exception.

Heirloom Audio Productions has converted multiple historical adventure novels by G.A. Henty into theater-quality audio dramas. Our main curriculum lists many Henty books in the reading list, because they are known for their deep history, rich literature, and exciting plots. So far, my kiddos aren't drawn to the novels themselves, but they are truly captivated by these adaptations. 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. In fact, each time we turned on the CD, my two-year-old would point to the television, "Turn on, Mama? I watch movie?" The music, the actors, the sound effects--they all make the story come to life. You hear a horse walking on cobblestone streets, the birds chirping, an angry mob shouting, swords clinking, crickets humming, and the glass from a window shattering, and you feel as if you are there in France as one of the characters of the story. It is that realistic. The narrator, Brian Blessed, 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 late 1700s during one of the darkest times in history--The French Revolution. It follows the life of Harry Sandwith, a 16-year-old English boy who leaves his homeland to tutor the sons of the Marquis de St. Caux in France. Harry is befriended by the family and becomes like one of their own. Throughout the story, he protected the marquis' daughters from a rabid dog, stabbed a "demon" wolf to death, and escaped an angry mob. He experienced firsthand the terrors and injustices of the times as he watched the people he grew to love imprisoned and put to death, simply because of their heritage. He risked his own life as he tried to reason with the commoners and show them their unlawfulness. In all of this, he trusted in God to guide him. Along with the non-stop action and exciting adventures, there are plenty of morals and Biblical truths taught along the way.

There is a downloadable Study Guide & Discussion Starter that accompanies the story. 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, Maximilien Robespierre, and Marie Antoinette; multiple Bible studies that coordinate with the story, many pictures from the times, and much more historical information. There are Expand Your Learning boxes throughout the study that are filled with snippets of information that relate to the period.

There are many more extras that are included as part of the Live the Adventure Club, too. There is the original In the Reign of Terror ebook, the official soundtrack composed by John Campbell, a printable cast poster, an inspirational verse poster, and a downloadable desktop wallpaper. A new thing that I don't remember seeing with other dramas is the inclusion of the official script download. This was extremely helpful during portions of the story that were hard to understand and helped give appropriate information. Also as part of the Live the Adventure Club, you gain access to many more features, such as the community forum, daily motivational quotes and stories, hundred of articles about parenting, collection of rare textbooks from the 1700-1800s, and hundreds of fun activities.  

The 2+ hour audio production is ideal for ages 6-adult, but our entire family enjoyed listening to it. We had a harder time understanding this story than we have with the others. It was a combination of the heavy French accents and the softness of the voices, I think. Normally we can enjoy these while driving, but we realized it took more concentration to follow along because the road noise was a distraction. Even my oldest commented that all the voices sounded similar, so he had a difficult time deciphering which character was speaking.They did, however, enjoy the French words sprinkled throughout the story and laughed at the Frenchman who made funny mistakes when trying to speak English.
We used the study guide questions to review the story and tackle difficult topics. The kids and I especially enjoyed the sections teaching about architecture in Paris in the 18th century, fashions of the day, medical practices, and the guillotine. 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. In the Reign of Terror is a wonderful resource to have.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

English on a Roll

I am always happy to review new products that might excited my little ones. I'm a huge believer in making learning fun, especially in the younger years, so we incorporate hands-on learning all the time. I know many people don't enjoy learning the nitpicky rules of the English language, but I've always loved it and chose Secondary English as my college major. Though I ended up teaching only one year of high school English classes before coming home full-time, I now have the privilege of passing on the love of the  language to my own kids. But how can learning (or even teaching) grammar be fun for those who don't naturally enjoy it? The English Grammar Teaching Method from English on a Roll is designed to meet that need.

English on a Roll was created by Linda Hopkins Koran in 2001, when she was teaching an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. None of the 25 students spoke English, and most of them were illiterate. After searching for something to help her communicate with the students and finding nothing that worked, she began to develop a program that quickly helped them build sentences in English. English on a Roll has been helping students ever since.   

"Languages are like intricate puzzles, each with unique rules and structure. Once the basic fundamentals of a language are understood, communicating becomes much simpler and more successful.” ~ Linda Hopkins Koran

The English Grammar Teaching Method is a multisensory program that uses color-coded cubes to teach English grammar. By combining visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles, the program becomes a full approach that reduces errors and aids in the understanding of the language. Students learn syntax by manipulating the 40 cubes to create sentences and phrases. Because each cube contains only one type of word, students are able to find the correct choice more easily and learn parts of speech by association. The cubes (along with two blank ones) are divided into the following types and coordinating colors:

  • Pronouns: blue
  • Question Words: green
  • Nouns: dark blue
  • Articles: dark blue
  • Prepositions: dark blue
  • Verbs: red
  • Adverbs: orange
  • Adjectives: purple
  • Conjunctions: black
  • Punctuation: black    

Each cube has one word on a side and contains a "cluster" of similar words. For example, The subject pronouns cube has I, you, he/she, it, we, and they. The common preposition cube has at, for, to, from, with, and of. The cube for all forms of have lists have, has, had, having, and to have. Familiarizing yourself with the cubes and colors will make both teaching and learning easier.

A detailed teaching textbook is included with the cubes. Very little preparation is needed on the part of the teacher, because everything is laid out in the text. Each lesson follows the same format:
  • Prep: shows the needed cubes, pages to copy, and materials
  • Notes & Vocabulary: teaching tips and new vocab
  • Teach the Concepts: detailed teaching instruction using the cubes and handouts
  • Games/Conversations: games to review the new concepts
  • Written Exercises: reproducible exercises for more practice
English on a Roll was written with the classroom setting in mind, but it can easily be adapted to be used one-on-one. I had gotten this set to work with my kindergartner. Since I read that this could be used as young as 5-years-old and those learning to read, I assumed there were letter cubes along with the words cubes. The website clearly states that the curriculum is for grammar, so the misunderstanding is solely my own. The lessons start simply by teaching the pronouns and singular/plural. There is a reproducible with stick figure examples that can be copied if using with multiple students, but we just used it directly in the book. Lesson two has the addition of the Be verbs. The student learns which combinations can be made, such as I am, you are, he is, they are, ect.. The 37 lessons continue in this fashion. Each cube that is added opens up multiple new combinations and teaches new concepts.

Since my boy is a learning reader, we've been taking it slow. I think it's important to have a solid foundation of phonics before introducing too many sight words. I work through the lessons with him, giving him as much help and direction as he needs. He loves playing with the cubes and finding the words he wants to make the appropriate combinations. Even though I personally think this curriculum would be better suited to an English-speaking student who can already read, this truly is written in a way that can gently be used even with non-readers. Of course, it also works well with those who are learning English as a second language.

English on a Roll is a great hands-on product that teaches English grammar in a fun game-like way. If you'd like more detailed information of the curriculum, you can request free sample chapters and watch a demo of an actual lesson.

You can connect with English on a Roll on their Facebook page and website

You can read more reviews of this product on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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