Thursday, June 21, 2018

White House Holidays

Our family enjoys learning together as much as possible, so we're always pleased to review unit studies. This style of learning fits perfectly with our family. While the kids do have their independent studies, I love incorporating family learning daily. Our conversations twist and turn and we end up talking about so much more than what is in the lesson. This part of our day is special to me. 

The curriculum that is currently inspiring those deeper conversations is the White House Holidays Unit Studies. While there are plenty of resources that help homeschoolers learn about holidays in depth, this one, from Silverdale Press LLC, is different. These studies focus on American presidents and the White House during each holiday.

Silverdale Press was founded by Jill and Joshua Hummer in order to provide quality resources for homeschoolers written by experts of the subjects. Along with these holiday studies, the company also offers a presidential election unit study and a persuasive writing and classical rhetoric course.

There are currently 6 individual unit for studying the White House Holidays.

Each study contains several detailed lessons that are designed for grades K-12. The lessons include history about the specific holiday along with information about various presidents. One thing I like about unit studies specifically is that we apply that topic to multiple subjects. Along with history and government, these unit cover things such as literature, poetry, writing, music, art, and baking skills. These creative activities add a hands-on learning aspect that further enriches the study.

Veteran's Day was the first unit we studied. I chose this because my kids are fascinated by battles, wars, and military tactics and this particular study is chock full of historical facts. This one comes with a set of 3 lessons for grades K-6 and a set for grades 7-12. The elementary stories are exciting and shorter and the activities are visual and hands-on, while the secondary narratives are filled with more details and the activities are focused on reading, writing, and thinking skills.

Since my kids are ages 3-12, I chose to use the elementary lessons.
  1. President Woodrow Wilson and the Story of Armistice Day
  2. President Wilson and Food Czar Hoover at War
  3. The Story of Dwight Eisenhower and How We Got Veteran's Day
The activities include a poppy pin craft, "In Flander's Field" copywork, various exercises for food conservation, and many suggestions for honoring veterans both on the holiday and throughout the year.

We have close family members who are veterans, so this was a special study for us. It made history become real as we discussed how they lived during those times and what hardships they faced. I wish I would have looked at the narratives first though instead of assuming we'd need the younger set. The secondary version is definitely much deeper and so fascinating. I read my kids more advanced literature quite often, so these lessons would have been perfect for them. They were enthralled with the small portion I did read to them. I do think the elementary activities were perfect for us though.

My middle child asked to do the Christmas study next. This one has only one set of lessons for all ages, and while there is history woven throughout, it is different than our first unit. This one focuses more on a White House theme and a special feature about how they celebrate Christmas. It has 4 lessons with a total of 24 activities.
  1. Jacqueline Kennedy, The Nutcracker Suite, and the White House Crรจche
  2. Betty Ford, Handmade Folk Art, and the Gingerbread House
  3. Barbara Bush, a Story Book Christmas, and the White House Tree
  4. Michelle Obama, Simple Gifts and Military Families, and Christmas Cards
This study could easily fill the entire month of December with Christmas-themed learning! The activities vary from creating your own nativity scene, writing a poem, making ornaments and decorations, reading speeches, listening to music, painting conifers, designing a Christmas card, baking goodies and more.

My kids especially liked that each lesson included a recipe from a First Lady, though they thought it was a little silly to be drinking hot chocolate when it was 90 degrees outside, ha.

My daughter chose our third study, Valentine's Day, of course. Don't let the title fool you though; while this unit is full of love stories, there is still much history in its pages. The letters themselves are windows to times past.
  1. The Love Letters of John and Abigail Adams
  2. The Love Letters of Ronald and Nancy Reagan
  3. The White House Wedding of John Tyler and Julia Tyler
  4. The White House Wedding of Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom Cleveland
  5. Valentine's Day 1962 and Jacqueline Kennedy's Television Tour of the White House
The accompany activities include writing letters, creating valentines, aging paper, reading poems, baking goodies, answering questions, and more. There are suggestions for both elementary and secondary age groups.

My favorite part of this study took place while reading the love letters between John and Abigail Adams. The art of letter writing was much more pronounced and language was very different hundreds of years ago. I read "me thinks" and a giggle fest ensued. The kids thought the phrase was hilarious and repeated it often over the next few days.

These White House Holidays Unit Studies are fun resources to utilize throughout the year. The lessons are written so that you can read them to your students without any prep work. They are interesting and age-appropriate. There are many pictures throughout along with speeches, poems, letters, and links that further enhance your study.

I'm sure we'll study these holidays again along with the other 3 (Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King, Jr.) at the appropriate times of year and truly delve into all that these unit studies have to offer.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Father's Day 2018

I love Father's Day. I hope to always show Leighton how loved and appreciated he is throughout the whole year, but it is extra special to set aside a day to honor him. The kids make him cards, we buy him gifts, I cook his requested meal for dinner, and we always have cinnamon rolls for breakfast. 

Leighton works so hard for our family. He provide for our needs monetarily and makes it possible for me to stay home to raise and educate our children. If anything is broken around the house, he fixes it. If I want something built, he makes it. He's our leader, our protector, our provider. He is so talented, so intelligent, so creative. I often say there isn't anything he can't do. And while he did not have the best example growing up, he himself is an amazing father. His children know that he loves them, he loves their mother, and he loves the Lord. Not only do they hear it, but they see that love in action. 

I don't think they understand just yet how blessed they are to have a father like that and to grow up in a strong and loving home. But I do pray that they follow his example and become just like him.

One of my favorite things every year is completing these questionnaires with the kids. It's so special to hear their answers and to see their daddy through their eyes. 

By Jake, 12 yr

My dad is 35 years old.

My dad weighs more than me.

My dad is 5'11" tall.

My dad's favorite color is green.

My dad's favorite food is Mom's.

My dad is really strong. He could lift enough.

My dad always says "be good for your mother tomorrow."

My dad is the best at being my dad.

My dad's job is destroying things.

My dad laughs at non-sarcastic jokes.

My dad and I like to go to the store.

My dad really loves when we clean up the house and listen to Mom.

I love my dad because I do.

It makes my dad happy when we listen to Mom.

By Alyssa, 10 yr

My dad is 35 years old.

My dad weighs 75 pounds.

My dad is 6'2 tall.

My dad's favorite color is green.

My dad's favorite food is anything Mom makes.

My dad is really strong. He could lift me.

My dad always says "I love you."

My dad is the best at anything to do with tools.

My dad's job is to be the saftey guy.

My dad laughs at stuff we do.

My dad and I like lots of stuff.

My dad really loves his family.

I love my dad because he loves me.

It makes my dad happy when we obey.

By Zac, 8 yr

My dad is 35 years old.

My dad weighs about 76 pounds.

My dad is 5'8 tall.

My dad's favorite color is green.

My dad's favorite food is meatloaf.

My dad is really strong. He could lift 25 pounds.

My dad always says "I love you."

My dad is the best at fixing machines. (That was an easy one.)

My dad's job is computer work.

My dad laughs when he hears a funny joke.

My dad and I like to watch movies.

My dad really loves meat.

I love my dad because he's my dad.

It makes my dad happy when we have a clean house (because that's what makes Mom happy.)

By Tyler, 6 yr

My dad is 35 years old.

My dad weighs 55 pounds.

My dad is 100 inches tall.

My dad's favorite color is green.

My dad's favorite food is cinnamon rolls.

My dad is really strong. He could lift 100 lbs.

My dad always says "clean up your room."

My dad is the best at working.

My dad's job is working.

My dad laughs at jokes.

My dad and I like to go swimming.

My dad really loves Mommy.

I love my dad because.

It makes my dad happy when he's with Mommy.

By Nicholas, 3 yr

My dad is free (3) years old.

My dad is like dis! tall.

My dad's favorite color is red.

My dad's favorite food is fwimp! and muffrooms! (shrimp and mushrooms)

My dad is really strong. He could bwing the Duplos up here!

My dad always says "I love you" to Mom and kissing Mommy.

My dad is the best at going at the store.

My dad's job is ride a horsey.

My dad laughs at a hat.

My dad and I like to ride our bikes.

My dad really loves me and he can hold you me.

I love my dad because!

It makes my dad happy when he play the Xbox guy.

Happy Father's Day, Leighton! You are the perfect husband and father for our family. We love you and appreciate you so very much.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Art of the Middle Ages

My daughter was thrilled to review another book from ARTistic Pursuits, Inc.. She has enjoyed making crafts since she was little, but as she's gotten older, that every-now-and-then pastime has evolved into an infatuation. Now, she crafts daily. Whether she's sewing or knitting, drawing or paper quilling, folding origami or weaving on her loom, you can often find her sparking her creativity in one art form or another. 

I knew my girl would be excited to study the Art of the Middle Ages with the ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Book with DVD and Blu-Ray Not only does she (and the rest of the family) enjoy studying that time period, but she also thrives on learning new skills. The projects in this book combine old favorites with some new techniques.

ARTistic Pursuits was developed by Daniel and Brenda Ellis in 1999. What began as a single drawing book for high schoolers has evolved into full curricula from preschool all the way through high school. Their goal is to "develop experiences in the visual arts that allow children to create original works of art." Their program is designed to help students understand art concepts and enjoy the process of putting their own ideas and visual images on paper.

The Art of the Middle Ages book is the third volume in the kindergarten to third grade art program. This curriculum currently contains six volumes with another two projected for this summer. It is a four-year elementary course with one book for each semester and one lesson per week. Once your child finishes the first book, Art for Children, he can either work through the others chronologically or choose to study the various time periods of art in any order.

This specific book includes 18 projects. They are broken into 12 Master Works text lessons and 6 art material instruction video lessons.

One thing that I love is that each text lesson begins with a history of the particular project. These sections are bursting with information, not only the art aspects such as materials, types, purposes, and importance, but also facts about wars, church, people, animals, transportation, life, and more. The student is encouraged to examine the art works from the masters of the period and strengthen his observation skills as he answers a few questions designed to get him to see more within the picture.

After this brief history lesson, the student will recreate his own version of the project by practicing the art form. Detailed step-by-step direction are given, clearly numbered with accompanying pictures. Each lesson also includes a supply list and prep notes when needed.

The video lessons are given in both DVD and Blu-Ray versions. There is a single page in the book for each of these lessons. It shows the name, a picture of the project, a list of supplies, and a simple description.

The videos themselves begin with a brief introduction before moving on to the instructional portion. Then, the student can watch Brenda as she creates the projects in real time. The steps are easy-to-follow with audible directions. The video is zoomed in to show the hands close up, so the student can see exactly how each step is preformed.

The end of each video is a re-cap of the project. A portion of each step is shown with text instructions on the screen. 

My daughter is the craft queen in our home, but a couple of the boys enjoy creating projects, as well. As she's been working through the book, the boys join in on the crafts they find interesting. I've been letting the kids choose which projects to complete as they wish. They have stitched art into burlap, woven creations on a straw loom, made raised pictures with glue, assembled paper stained glass windows, and bound books with yarn. They worked with some supplies for the first time, such as gesso, watercolor crayons, and burlap. They watch the videos on the computer so they can create their projects while they watch and pause the instruction, as needed.

Not only are my kids learning new skills and bits of history, but they're having fun while doing it! The curriculum is easy to use. In fact, the older kids can make the projects completely on their own by following the instructions in both the text and the videos. Even my kindergartner is enjoying recreating the art.

It's difficult to find my kitchen table during the day as I often find it covered in tissue paper, glue, scissors, string, watercolors, and bits of odds and ends. Projects are covering my walls and windows. My kids hands are busy and their faces smiling. It's a beautiful thing.

Studying the Art of the Middle Ages with ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Book with DVD and Blu-Ray has been greatly enjoyed in our home.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Critical Thinking Detective Review

One of the reasons we homeschool is that we want our children to be able to think for themselves, to be able to problem solve to find a solution. It is our job to prepare them for life, not just memorize facts from a book. While rote memorization is profitable in certain areas, we don't want to solely rely on that method for our children's education. We strive to give our kids the tools necessary to make clear, reasoned judgments. In other words, we want to develop their critical thinking. Critical thinking has been defined as "the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action." Or more simply, identifying and evaluating evidence to guide decision making. What better way to strengthen their critical thinking than by using products from a company with the same name.

The Critical Thinking Co. is "committed to developing students' critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life." They offer many books and curricula to prepare students, not by teaching through drill and memorization, but instead by teaching in a way that empowers the mind. Critical Thinking Detective Book 1, written by Michael Baker, is one such book.

This critical thinking book lets your child be the detective. It's filled with 12 cases in which to evaluate evidence and solve the crimes. The mysteries ensure that the students "read carefully and analyze and synthesize information to guide their decision-making." The book is recommended for grades 4-12, and though it is easy-to-use, it requires the student to pay attention to details and study the evidence.

My kids love mystery books and enjoy various series that focus on them, so I wasn't surprised that as soon as I got the book from the mailbox, my 12-year-old snatched it up. I was thrilled at his enthusiasm, but hindsight showed me that it wasn't the best decision.

When I sat down with my older kids (12, 10, 8) a few days later to work through the mysteries, I learned that my oldest already knew all the answers. He had read through each scenario. That in itself wouldn't have been a bad thing, I mean, I am all for independent learning and self-directed studies. The problem is that he quickly read the information, made an under-developed guess, and checked the answers. He did not take the time to fully strengthen his critical thinking skills.

He sat with the rest of us as we worked through each mystery and was disappointed that he remembered all the culprits and therefore missed out on the fun of solving the crimes. This time though, his critical thinking skills were put to the test, and he was able to reason through the steps of the process.

The book is set up so that each mystery is a two-page spread. The first page describes the situation and lists statements for four suspects. The second page is for notes and solutions. There is room to list each suspect and give evidence for their innocence or guilt.

The license for this book states that I have permission to copy each page for use in my home. That is so exciting when you have multiple kiddos! However, we chose to talk through the mysteries together. My kids are at the young end of the spectrum (seeing as one is at the youngest recommended age, one is a couple years too young, and one already knew the answers). I talked them through the first scenario and showed them how to evaluate the facts. I explained why certain suspects were innocent based on the information and proved who was the criminal. The second scheme was much the same, except I asked for their thoughts before giving my input. By the third, the kids were able to solve the crimes on their own. Of course, there were times when they were stumped. I would re-read the line(s) that contained the information they needed to deduce the next piece of the puzzle.

I love the format of this Detective Book. The descriptions are concise. Each sentence is numbered so that you can easily understand the solutions. The crimes are not morbid, but are appropriate for children (all thefts: lunch money, bath robe, plant, football, and even a couple lighthearted ones committed by pets).

The only aspect I don't like is the answer pages. Each mystery is listed and gives reasoning for guilt or innocence, but it also shows the lineup of the suspects with the criminal circled in red. It's tricky to look in the back for the answer of a specific scenario without accidentally seeing another culprit. The book should remove the images altogether and rely solely on the names for answers.

My kids immediately fell in love with this style of learning. In addition to developing their critical thinking skills, this book prompted me to introduce them to logic puzzles. As a child, I greatly enjoyed checking off those little boxes and using deductive reasoning to figure them out. My kids, too, think these puzzles are fun and have solved dozens of them since starting the Detective Book. Any book that encourages my kids to do extra learning is a plus for me.

The Critical Thinking Co. offers so many resources that look like fun. There is a Detective Book similar to this one, but the student solves the crimes by focusing on Vocabulary. In Something's Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha, students solve the crime by using forensic evidence such as fingerprints, ballistics, handwriting, and more. Students can decode riddles by relying on their language skills in Vocabulary Riddles Book 1. Whether you're looking for critical thinking activities, math books, science resources, or even full curriculum for every grade, The Critical Thinking Co.™ is sure to have something to spark your interest.

You can currently take advantage of coupon code TOSCREW18 to receive free shipping and a 15% discount off any size order! You can also sign up to receive free critical thinking puzzles delivered to your inbox by signing up on their site. My kids enjoy these weekly puzzles. Since you can choose which grade level(s) you receive, my kids each get a fun learning activity designed specifically for their age.

Thank you The Critical Thinking Co. for providing not only engaging and thought-provoking materials, but ones that are interesting and enjoyable, as well.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 4/27/18

Jake (12), Alyssa (10), Zac (8), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3)

Happy Friday! This week, Leighton and I were able to spend 3 days in Chicago while my parents watched our kids. It was such a needed time alone and so very much enjoyed. We packed a ton of touristy things into those few days including exploring the Museum of Science and Industry, walking around Millennium Park and taking our pictures in The Bean, enjoying the exhibits of the Adler Planetarium, walking and shopping along Navy Pier, experiencing 360 Chicago, learning about the architecture in the city on the Shoreline River Tour, eating award-winning pizza at Giordano's, and more. Such a perfect experience with my best friend. 

1. I was in my room working on a review when Nicholas threw open the door, shouted "I love you, my Love!" and slammed the door shut again. 

2. Tyler, eating pieces of watermelon: "Mom, I found a square! Actually, it's a cube, because squares are flat."


4. Me: "Who's my favorite 3-year-old?"
Nicholas: "Daddy."
Me: "Daddy is?"
Nicholas: "Yeah, my daddy. Daddy is your favorite 3-year-old, and my favorite, too."

5. Nicholas, hugging around my neck: "I love you, little boy."


7. Tyler: "Ooh, Mommy, you look pretty."
Me: "Aww, thank you, Ty-Ty."
Tyler: "You're always my Pretty."

8. Alyssa covers her ears every time Junior Asparagus from Veggie Tales sings, because his voice is so high and squeaky. We were listening to a CD when she said, "I can't wait until they show an episode after Junior goes through puberty."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

T Is for Tree

Our family spends much time each day reading between what is required for schoolwork and what is chosen solely for pleasure. Most of the time, the books we review tend to be for the older kids--chapter books, biographies, historical non-fiction, etc.. I love reading those together as a family and appreciate many aspects of studying that kind of literature with my kids. However, there is something so special about cuddling close with a little one and enjoying a picture book. Our newest snuggle-inducing read is T is for Tree: A Bible ABC from Reformed Free Publishing Association.

Reformed Free Publishing Association was established in 1924 as an independent, non-profit organization. Their literature includes commentaries, devotionals, Bible study guides, church history, Christian living, children's materials, educational curriculum, and more. They have a wide selection as their book catalog contains over 70 titles and options of print, audio, and downloadable products.

T is for Tree, written by Connie L. Meyer, is more than a simple alphabet book for little ones. This book focuses on God while teaching the ABCs. Bible verses, truths, and promises in God's Word are woven throughout the pages.

Each letter of the alphabet has its own page. The capital letter is prominent and followed by its chosen word. F is for faith. J is for jewel. R is for ravens. Z is for Zion. A short 3-line poem and Bible passage accompany each letter and are complemented by beautiful illustrations.
I've been reading this book with my two youngest children. We don't read the verses every time, as the 3-year-old doesn't always have the longest attention span. Twenty-six pages of letters and short rhymes makes the length perfect for him for special book time in the afternoon, a bedtime story at night, or just some extra snuggle time whenever. I love that not only do my boys like to shout out the letters before I read them, but that the truths of God and His love for us are being cemented in their hearts. 

The poems themselves make this a good book for older children, too. Most typical ABC books are cute and sing-songy, but even though this one rhymes as well, the vocabulary is more advanced. Words like fearsomewithersuffereddwelling, and others are used. The syntax is a bit more advanced than preschool age at times, too. As I love to incorporate read-alouds that are above my kids' levels, I appreciate that aspect of this book. It also makes it more enjoyable for an older child to read to a younger sibling.

Some of my personal favorite pages are C, P, and J.

J is for JEWEL

There's rubies, and there's gold;
But far more precious are the lips
That speak with knowledge told.

"There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the 
lips of knowledge are a precious jewel." --Proverbs 20:15 

This one has a second group of verses wrapped around the border of the page, too.

"Receive my instruction, and not silver;and knowledge rather than choice gold. 
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared 
to it." --Proverbs 8:10-11 

So often, our flesh is drawn to want gold and silver and jewels. We want wealth and nice things. But so much more, we should desire knowledge and instruction from God. Wisdom is far more valuable than earthly treasures. To instill that truth in the hearts of my children while they are young is my goal. Weaving those principles in a simple children's book is a bonus.

T is for Tree: A Bible ABC is a beautiful hardcover book that is full of teaching opportunities. Whether you use it to introduce the alphabet, to reinforce biblical truths, as a basis for Bible memorization, or simply as a picture book to enjoy with your child, this one is sure to please.

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

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 4/20/18

Jake (12), Alyssa (10), Zac (8), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3)

Happy Weekend! Do you have a Smile to share with us this week? Share your funny quote, special memory, or happy event below so we can Smile with you!

1. Tyler, holding fresh laundry: "Mmm, this smells warm."

2. Nicholas: "Don't sit on dat!"
Zac: "Who said?"
Nicholas: "Nobody!"

3. Nicholas, because the older kids like to look on Lego's website: "I want to look at Duplo .com."

4. My Dad: "What's your name?"
Nicholas: "Nicholas."
My Dad: "Oh. I like you."
Nicholas. "Yep."

5. Tyler: "Nobody can beat you at making stuff, Mom. Well, except two people: God and Jesus."


7. Zac: "Guess what! I just reached the oven timer to shut it off--without a step stool!"
Me: "Whoa! Who said you could get that tall?"
Zac: "Me."
Me, teasing, giving him the evil eye: "Hmm . . ."
Zac: "God! God, God. You can't mess with God."

8. Tyler, drinking ice water: "The ice cubes are going to get smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and then they're going to be a myth!"

9. Nicholas, because Tyler knocked him down: "Tyler, stop falling me down!"

10. Zac: "Is this a softball?"
Me: "It is a soft ball, but not a softball."
Zac: "Well then, what is it?"
Me: "Do you know what a softball is?"
Zac: "uh, no?"
Me: "It's a big, hard baseball."
Zac: "What! Then why is it called a softball?!"

What made you Smile this week?

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