Ark Encounter Tour and Review

Ark Encounter Review
Ever since I heard that there was going to be a full-size model of Noah’s Ark, I have wanted to visit.  Unfortunately it’s a couple thousand miles from where we live, so we won’t be making it out there any time soon.  My friend Keith recently took his family, and after he shared the video he made of their trip to Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky, I asked him if I could share it.  For those of us who can’t go ourselves, he gives us a chance to get a feel for everything that’s there.

Here’s what he had to say:

If you’re curious, here’s my experience at Ark Encounter.

Most of the video is a slow walkthrough of the ark and its exhibits. I interview some other guests to get their take. My thoughts are at the end.

Rating: 7/10. Some things at the Ark Encounter could be better, especially to make it kid friendly (it’s mostly a museum for adults) — but it’s very, very cool.

They strive to be visually stunning as well as informative and meeting the challenge of skeptics. They do a much better job of the first than the second.

 

After watching Keith’s video, I’m more eager than ever to make a trip out to that part of the country and see the ark for myself!

Wrapping Up Week 6 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Since we start our school year early, the first few weeks are just us settling into the “home” part of our homeschooling.  Now that summer is starting to wind down, we’re going to start adding in some of the extras that will add some flavor to our  year.  This past week we got our first taste of Classical Conversations, going to our orientation, meeting the kids’ tutors, meeting the kid’s I’ll be tutoring, and putting together my plan for our first week of Foundations, which starts tomorrow.  I’m a little nervous about how CC is going to affect our year.  I think the kids are going to love it, and I’m excited about all we’ll be learning.  I think it’s just the thought of losing a day (well, a morning) at home that feels a little overwhelming.  I’m trying to just breathe deeply and take one day at a time.

Pterosaur exhibit NHMThis week was another odd one, but again I’m thankful for the flexibility homeschooling provides for our family.  We attended a memorial service for a family friend, spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum to see the new exhibit on Pterosaurs, celebrated Nathaniel turning 1, and had an overnight at Grandma’s, so I planned a pretty basic week without any extras.

The boys went through their math, Bible, spelling, and grammar almost completely on their own.  Elijah finished up Read, Write, & Type and is ready to join Ian on Wordy Qwerty.  We read one more biography for the month, Louis Zamperini: Survivor and Champion from the “Heroes for Young Readers” series.  And we listened to the audiobook of Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition as we drove all over town.

Ian has been finishing his work earlier than Elijah, so I decided to give him a little something extra to do.  I’ve been wanting him to learn about coding for a while, so I started him off at Khan Academy.  He’s going through the course “Intro to JS: Drawing and Animation” to begin learning how to use JavaScript.

Elijah codingOf course, once Elijah saw what he was doing, he wanted to do it as well, and he loved it so much he begs to do coding every day.  He logged 188 minutes this week, and would have done more if I’d let him.  I’m amazed at how much he’s learned and the drawings he’s created with code.  For now, I’m learning alongside him so I can help, but I know it won’t be long before he’s zooming ahead of me and will have to figure things out on his own.

Upcoming Reviews

Here are the products we’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Puzzles that Can’t Lose Pieces! (Crew Review)

FlipStir Review
We love puzzles of every kind, so we were excited to get a chance to review one of the FlipStir Puzzles from Enlivenze LLC.  They sent us their Solar System FlipStir, and everyone 6 and older ended up taking on the challenge of solving the puzzle.

About FlipStir

The FlipStir puzzles are completely self-contained puzzles made in the U.S.A..  Each one contains a set of 10 plastic pieces that all need to be arranged next to each other to finish the picture.  You use a “wand” with a hook on the end of it to manipulate the pieces into place.  Since everything is enclosed within the plastic tube, there is no way to lose any pieces (definitely a plus in our household)!

FlipStir Puzzle pieces

There are several different puzzles available, some with straight pieces (Level 1), and some like our Solar System puzzle, with wavy edges (Level 2):

FlipStir PuzzlesLevel 1

  • Rainbow Pencils
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex

Level 2

  • Solar System
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Periodic Table

(Other members of the Crew received different puzzles, so click on the banner at the bottom to read what they thought of those.)

Our Experience

When I first showed the FlipStir to Ian (8), he decided it was too hard and wouldn’t even attempt it.  I tried it myself, and although it was challenging, I was able to complete it without too much frustration.

I really felt like the boys would be able to do it.  So I got the first few pieces in place (the hardest part) and handed it Elijah (6).  He was quite determined, and it wasn’t long before he had finished the whole puzzle.  When Ian saw that his younger brother had managed it, of course then he wanted a turn.  They were both quite proud of themselves for completing it.

Kids Complete FlipStir

In addition to the fun of doing the puzzle, the Solar System FlipStir is a great learning tool because you have to put the planets in order according to their distance from the sun (dwarf planets not included).  This will be coming up as part of our memory work this year, so I love that the boys are getting in a little extra practice.

We really enjoyed the FlipStir puzzle.  The boys are hoping to get more designs, and I think I might get another one the next time we’re going on a trip.  They’re great to have in the car since there are no pieces to get lost, and even my husband and I enjoyed taking a turn trying to work through the challenge of completing the puzzle.

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

Foreign Languages For Kids By Kids (Crew Review)

Foreign Languages For Kids Review
The one subject I feel inadequate for teaching my children is foreign language.  Yet it’s also one where I really want them to be successful, because I think it is more important than ever to be able to communicate with people around the globe.  We’ve dabbled in several Spanish programs over the last few years, but I was excited to get a chance to try Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.  They sent us their Starter Set 1 to review, and it has definitely been a hit with our whole family.

About Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids uses videos to immerse students of all ages in the Spanish language.  The videos are introduced in English by a kid dressed up like a pilot, who is presenting them as “in-flight entertainment” on a trip to Spanish speaking countries (Peru, Columbia, and Costa Rica).

FL4KBK in flight
The rest of the videos are completely in Spanish and feature three brothers.

FL4KBK brothers
The videos on the DVD are definitely the core of the program.  The three levels build upon each other, and viewers are instructed to watch previous videos several times so they understand them well before moving onto the next ones.

Vocabulary is taught very deliberately in several ways.  Sometimes the boys (and other actors) emphasize certain words/phrases.  Then the story part of the video stops to present a special lesson focusing on that word.

FL4KBK lesson
Things are also labeled on the set, so viewers see the words for things they’re hearing about (and other things as well).  The stickers included with the program make it easy to label things around your house in a similar way.

FL4KBK labels
In addition to the videos, there are several other products that help reinforce what is being taught.  Here’s what we received in Starter Set 1:

  • DVD with videos for Levels 1-3
  • Three Parent-Teacher Guides (1 for each level)
  • Student workbooks for Levels 1-3
  • “Go Squish” Card Game
  • Stickers for Levels 1-3

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
 

The teacher guides provide detailed lesson plans, including a suggested viewing schedule (for watching smaller segments of the video for that level), plus extra activities (e.g. games or workbook assignments) to help practice the vocabulary being focused.

Go SquishThe “Go Squish” cardgame we received is one of those activities.  Similar to “Go Fish,” the game is played using vocabulary cards.  At Level 1, the students just say the vocabulary words (“Desayuno?”  “No desayuno.”  At Level 2 they use complete sentences (Tengo desayuno.  Tienes desayuno?”  “No, no tengo desayuno.  GO SQUISH”).

Our Experience

We heard about Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids last year, and from the first time we watched the sample video on the website, my kids have been eager to try it out for themselves.  It did not disappoint!  From my 8-year old down to my 2-year old, all the kids really liked these videos.  I put them on several times a week while I was preparing lunch, and the kids loved how much they were able to understand after a few viewings.

The only problem with putting the DVD on like this was that the segments recommended in the lesson plans all flow into each other, so if you’re not standing right there watching the clock so you know where to stop it, the video just keeps going.  That meant my kids ended up watching the entire video each time, which made them reluctant to go through all 11 lessons in the teacher’s guide because there was nothing new being presented.  They kept begging to be allowed to go on to the next video.  (The videos can also be watched through the website with a subscription, which eliminates this problem since they are broken into segments there.)

The workbooks are recommended for 3rd grade and up, so I gave them to Ian to work through.  They are printed in full color on fairly glossy paper, which made it difficult to see pencil on.  I ended up giving Ian a permanent marker to write with because it was the only thing we found that really worked well (though that caused its own problems).  The workbooks are beautiful, but the price of printing them at this high quality is a bit of a turn off for me.  I’d gladly give up some of the vibrancy to have something more affordable.

Workbook Collage
Ian’s favorite part of the program was definitely the stickers.  He went a little nuts slapping labels on things around the house.

Sticker Collage
My husband was cracking up when he opened up the fridge to pack his lunch and found the bread labeled “el pan,” and the fruit bearing “la manzana” and “la naranja” stickers.

Food Collage
I love that the videos use an immersion approach.  As I said, I feel so inadequate trying to teach them a language I have only minimal knowledge of, so I am so grateful to be able to give them an opportunity to hear native speakers using the language fluently.

I’m so glad we’ve found Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids, and my kids are already asking for the next DVD.  (Volumes 2 and 3 are also available.)  They’re taking ownership of the vocabulary they’ve learned, and I hear them using words and phrases throughout the day, even when we’re not “doing Spanish.”  Just the other day, I set my 2-year old’s lunch in front of him, and he exclaimed, “Oh! Me gusta!”

That’s what I’m looking for in a foreign language program.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wrapping Up Week 5 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
In my original schedule, this was going to be a week off, but several fun opportunities came up last week that made me give the boys a few days off and allow them to finish up their work as they were able.  So we took advantage of homeschooling flexibility and spread a week’s worth of work over two weeks.

Preschool

Royal Dance CampArianna spent every morning last week at “Royal Dance Camp,” so I didn’t do any planned preschool activities at home.  And this week all the little ones have been having a fantastic time just playing, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to pull them away from that to do anything else.  Some of their favorite activities this week were:

Playtime collage
For a more extensive list of preschool activities, check out “Entertaining Elijah (tips for toddlers).”

Elementary

I felt a little guilty as I planned this week because I had lots of videos scheduled to go along what we were studying.  However, Ian ended up getting sick, and I was thankful to have something quality to watch that also helped us get through my lesson plans on those days when he wasn’t up to much besides lying on the couch.

History

Light and the GloryWe read four chapters in The Light and the Glory for Children, finishing the settlement at Jamestown, moving onto the Separatists who started Plymouth Plantation (a.k.a. the Pilgrims), and then beginning learning about the Puritan settlers who followed a few years later.

We’ve studied the Pilgrims quite a bit during Thanksgiving time over the last few years, but Ian was more than happy to revisit his favorite books and movies.  We pulled out all of Kate Waters’ books about children in Pilgrim times (all with beautiful color photographs of people in period clothing):

P1020211
As I said, Ian watched several videos related to our history lessons:

Biography

Since we stretched this “week” of school over two weeks, we actually focused on two different people, both Olympic athletes.

Gabby Douglas

Raising the BarAs we looked forward to the Olympics starting, we focused on Gabby Douglas, who won the gold medal in the individual all-around for women’s gymnastics (as well as a team gold medal) at the 2012 London Olympics.  Her book, Raising the Bar has lots of information about her childhood, training, faith, and inspiration.  After reading it, we watched The Gabby Douglas Story, as well as several video clips from various competitions.  Then we had so much fun watching Gabby and the other members of the “Final Five” win the gold medal in the team final in Rio!

Eric Liddell

Then this week we went back in time to meet an athlete from the 1924 Olympics in Paris.  Eric Liddell is most famous for choosing to honor God by not running the race he had trained for because it was going to be held on a Sunday.  There is much more to his story, however, and we enjoyed learning about his work as a missionary in China as well.  We read two books, Eric Liddell: Running For a Higher Prize (Heroes for Young Readers) and Eric Liddell: Are You Ready? (Little Lights), and watched the Torchlighters: The Eric Liddell Story DVD (both the animated feature, and the documentary featuring his daughter and the author of Eric Liddell: Pure Gold, which I read a few years ago and pulled out for the boys so they could look at the photographs).  I didn’t think even Ian would want to sit through Chariots of Fire, so I enjoyed that one by myself.

Eric Liddell resources

Writing

Read Write and TypeIan finished up all the lessons in Read Write & Type this week, and I’ve been impressed with how well his typing skills have been developing.  He’s also benefited from the emphasis on spelling rules, so I decided to get him a subscription for the “sequel” from Talking Fingers, Wordy Qwerty.  That way he has something “fun” to go along with the spelling activities he’s doing in Essential Skills Advantage.

I have the boys spend time on each program twice a week.  Both of these were programs we were given to review that have proven to be really helpful for our family.  I’ll have to see what Ian thinks of Wordy Qwerty before I decide whether or not to get Elijah a subscription as well.  He doesn’t need the spelling practice quite so much, but he still has several lessons to go on Read Write & Type so I’ve got time to make that decision.

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Swimming With Faith: The Missy Franklin Story (Book Review)

With the Olympics in full swing, it seemed like a good time to review Swimming With Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller.  I appreciate finding books that help me introduce my children to public figures who use their celebrity as a platform for sharing about what God has done in their lives, so I was eager to dive into this book on a current Olympian.

Swimming With Faith is a detailed look at Missy Franklin’s life as a swimmer, starting back when she was just a small child who loved the water.  Although she played multiple sports growing up, swimming was her favorite, and the hard work required to becoming a world class athlete was driven by her love of the sport.  In junior high, on a retreat with her Jesuit school, Missy began a relationship with God, and ever since has made Him a part of every aspect of her life, including swimming.  After winning multiple medals at the 2012 London Olympics, Missy became well-known, and she publicly gave God the glory and resisted the temptation to accept offers of wealth to turn professional, knowing that at age 17, it was wiser to keep her eligibility to swim in college.  She continued swimming with her high school team after the Olympics and then went on to swim for UC Berkeley.

Through seventeen chapters, Swimming With Faith tells Missy’s story with black-and-white photographs interspersed throughout the book.  At the end there is a glossary of swim terms as well as an extensive bibliography.  With its detailed account of her career, the book will appeal most to 8-12 year old readers with an interest in swimming.  It’s not a sport I follow outside of the Olympics, so I was reading more to find out about her faith.  There was plenty of discussion about that mixed in, but I didn’t even bother trying to read the book to my kids because I felt like the book was primarily a pieced-together conglomeration of facts about her career.

For those who are more into the sport, however, I’m sure the book would be much more interesting.  Missy Franklin is a great role model with a heart for serving others and beautiful love for God.

BookLook disclaimer

The Olympics are Here!

The summer I turned 7, the Olympics came to town, and my family attended several different events, just because we could.  I remember my father trying to impress upon me what an awesome opportunity it was, though I was not particularly impressed at the time.  By the time the next Olympics rolled around, however, I had caught on to what a big deal it had been, and ever since I have looked forward to following the exciting stories of these gifted athletes who have made so many sacrifices and worked so hard to come to this point.

This will be the first Olympics my children are old enough to really understand and want to watch with me.  We’ve been watching clips on the NBC Sports Roku channel and learning about various athletes, particularly those who have been outspoken about their faith.  Ian has been fascinated by the wide variety of sports and has enjoyed learning about new ones.

We’re not doing any formal schoolwork around the Olympics (though there are plenty of ideas out there), but we’re using it as a jumping off point for exploring lots of subjects.  We’re already looking up countries on the globe, discussing the various flags and national anthems, learning about different sports, and appreciating the dedication and hard work of the athletes.  And we’re counting down the minutes till the Opening Ceremony and looking forward to the next couple weeks!

Talking Shapes Online (Crew Review)

Talking Shapes Review
All my children have shown a proclivity for learning through computer programs, so I’m always on the lookout for new things they can try out.  We were recently given a chance to review a new online version of the Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy app from Talking Fingers Inc., and Arianna (4) has enjoyed having a program just for her.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

About Talking Shapes

Talking Shapes is an online program that you can access through any computer or device with Internet access.  It teaches phonics using pictures that children can associate with letters and their sounds.  They practice writing the letters, reading the sounds, and creating words by putting letters together.

There are seven “books” users work their way through.  As they complete the lessons in each book, they can see their progress on the main menu.  Arianna completed three of the books during our review period, and each one used consonant-vowel-consonant words focusing on a particular short vowel sound.

Main Menu
There are a variety of different activities within each “book.”  In some, pictures are shown, and the student is supposed to choose from a selection of letters in order to spell the word.

Talking Shape 1
After the student has practiced several words, they are given a chance to read and then fill in missing words in a rhyme.

Talking Shapes 3

Our Experience

I had high hopes for Talking Shapes.  It seems like a fun concept to help children learn phonics.  In actuality, however, it seems like the online version still needs a bit of fine tuning.  (I haven’t used the app, but I’m guessing our frustrations were due to technical issues related to the new format.) I tried to let Arianna work independently while I was doing lessons with the boys, but she constantly was running into problems with things not working for her and I would have to tell her to just quit for the day, or else stop what I was doing and come over to click around or test things to get everything going again.  (She uses several other online programs with no trouble, so I know it wasn’t just that she didn’t know how to use the computer.)

For example, she is okay with a mouse, but I thought using our touch screen computer would be a good way for her to practice writing letters.  Unfortunately, we ran into all sorts of problems trying to use the touch screen (she couldn’t drag her finger without it adjusting the zoom, so she had to tap it just right, which proved frustrating).  I finally gave up and just had her do the best she could with the mouse.  It didn’t really matter, because she didn’t have to form the letter correctly; just scribbling over it made the letter appear.

letter formation scribbles
Overall, I liked the phonics practice it gave Arianna, but while the idea of “talking shapes” makes sense, at times it seemed like a hindrance to actually making progress with learning to read.  Arianna already knows most of the letters and their sounds, but in some of the activities she was supposed to choose a picture, rather than a letter, so she had to learn which pictures meant which letter, which seemed like an extra, unnecessary step.  (Then she used the mouse to scribble over the picture and reveal the letter.)  For example, in the activity shown below, she was supposed to spell the word in the picture between the two girls, in this case, CAT.  The “talking shape” of the cat represented C, but then she was supposed to choose the A and T.  She had a hard time remembering that the girl with her arms down represented “A.”  If she had been shown the actual letter she would have been able to complete this word quickly.

Talking Shapes 2
These activities would probably be more helpful for students who have no previous phonics knowledge, but Arianna found them a bit frustrating because she thought she knew how to spell the words but then she got tripped up by the “talking shape” pictures.

Overall, I think Talking Shapes has a lot of potential.  It really helped boost Arianna’s confidence in her reading skills, and I was glad to have a place for her to practice outside of her regular lessons.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
Crew Disclaimer

Another Look at CTCMath (Crew Review)

CTCMath Review
One of our favorite math resources for the past few years has been CTCMath.  Their online math curriculum has helped both my older boys, and since the site has recently been updated, we were thankful to be given a one-year CTCMath Homeschool Membership to see what’s new with one of our old favorites.

About CTCMath

CTCMath is an online math program with over a thousand lessons for Kindergarten through high school.  At the elementary levels, it can be used as a complete math curriculum, though the higher levels are intended to be used for tutoring purposes alongside a full curriculum.  Students have access to every lesson of every grade level, so they can target specific concepts they are struggling to understand.

CTC Menu

At each grade level, lessons are grouped by subject and broken down into a series of menus.  Diagnostic tests (available with 20, 30, or 40 questions) are available to show how much the students know about that subject before they begin those particular lessons.  The tests can also be used after completing all the lessons in that subject to show how much they have understood.

CTC lesson list

Each lesson consists of a short video teaching followed by a set of questions (usually about ten.) While the students can work completely independently and click on whatever lesson they want, parents can also assign specific lessons for the student to complete.  They can also pull up various reports to check their students progress.  (Reports can be downloaded or printed as well.)

The summary report shows which lessons have been completed, the student’s average score for each subject, and scores on any diagnostic tests completed at a particular grade level.

Summary Report

A detailed report is also available, which shows how many times the student attempted the lesson, how they did on various attempts, and how many attempts it took to pass that subject.  (The default “pass” level is 80%, but parents can change this if desired.)

Detailed Report

To practice math facts, there are also “speed skills,” which allow them to see how many facts (all four operations) they can complete in a minutes, and “Times Tables Shoot ‘Em Up,” a game that gets in extra multiplication practice.

Speed skills
Times Tables game

Our Experience

CTCMathWe have used CTCMath in various ways over the years, sometimes as a supplement, other times as our sole curriculum, and there are so many things great things about it.  The video lessons are easy for the boys to understand and I love that they can work independently.  It’s also really helpful to have access to all the grade levels, because at times I’ve had both of them working either ahead of their current grade level or going back to an earlier grade to review.  Their homeschool family subscriptions also make it a great value for families like ours with lots of children who need a math program.

One thing I would love to see added would be a way for parents to go in and change a score.  There have been several times my boys have known the right answer but then their fingers slipped and they accidentally typed something wrong.  It throws off their whole average and they get really upset.  (They were especially frustrated this time around because they’ve gotten used to our current curriculum where I can go in and alter the grade book in such instances.)

This summer I chose to make it a supplement to our main math program.  In the past I have felt like CTCMath gives my boys a bit too much freedom because there’s not a set sequence for the lessons.  They can choose whatever lesson they want (unless I want to set assignments for each of them). That’s great for keeping their skills up in the summer, and it makes it really easy to find the extra help they need on specific concepts.  However it also means that they can get through all the addition lessons and then not touch on addition for weeks or even months as they go through other concepts for the year.  I have found that they really need more frequent review, so for us CTCMath works best as a supplement while we use a core curriculum with a”spiral” approach, where the boys are continually practicing concepts they have already learned.  However, CTCMath is perfect for giving the boys extra practice on concepts that they haven’t quite mastered, and having the videos to explain things in slightly different words sometimes makes a real difference.  It’s definitely going to be an important tool for us this year in making sure the boys have a solid math foundation before trying to build any further.

CTCMath Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wrapping Up Week 4 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Coming back to school this week was a little challenging.  We’d just come back into town on Sunday, and between unpacking, laundry, and all the other chaos that follows a vacation, I ended up staying up far too late getting ready for this week.  I know I could have just taken a day or two off, but I felt like we could handle it.  And we would have, if we hadn’t taken time off for a family birthday and a play day with cousins from out of town.  So we pressed through.  And actually, we got a lot done, considering.

Preschool

As a follow up to last week’s camping adventure, I printed out several pages from the Camping Preschool Pack from Homeschool Creations and put them in plastic sheet protectors for Arianna and Nico to work on with dry erase markers.  They both loved having “schoolwork” to do, and I’m glad my printer issues before vacation prevented me from taking these pages along with us, because they were the perfect easy activity to give my little ones this week.  There were pages that were simple enough for Nico to do, as well as some that challenged Arianna a bit, so it was a great fit.

Preschool Camping Pack 1  Preschool Camping Pack 2

That pack also went well with We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which I pulled out of our Before Five in a Row collection and enjoyed reading it with them several times throughout the week.  They loved the repetition of this story, as well as doing hand motions with me through each stage.  I also had several activities printed, laminated, and all ready to go in a file folder from when I rowed Bear Hunt with the older boys.

bear color patterns   Preschool Camping Pack 3

Elementary

History

We didn’t officially do a biography this week because my plan this year is to use the read biographies for three weeks each month and then write a paper about one of them in the fourth week.  However, I decided to read Pocahontas by Ingrid and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire since it went along with the topic of Jamestown, which was what we read about in Chapter 4 of The Light and the Glory for Children. While I read, the kids did a Pocahontas coloring page and a maze from the Jamestown Rediscovery website.  We also watch a couple movies on Pocahontas (though not the Disney version this time):

A Lion to Guard UsMy main goal for history this week was for the boys to remember Jamestown as the first (somewhat) successful English colony in the New World.  To help get that in their heads, we also read A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla, about three English children who go to Jamestown to find their father after their mother dies.  The boys could probably have read this on their own, but I enjoyed reading it aloud to to them.

Writing

As I said, my plan this year is to have the boys create outlines throughout the month and then choose one from which to write during the last week.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to a great start with that in July, and they each only had one outline so they both had to write about Columbus.  Still, I’m glad they had at least one, and it was good to get back to following the structure they had learned in their IEW class last year.

This year I want them to stretch a little bit more, so I made them do more of the actual writing.  (Last year I just let them dictate to me and I typed it up for them).  The boys wrote out their rough drafts (though I helped Elijah with the end of his since it was a lot of writing for a 6-year old), then I wrote in changes as we went through their checklists, and then they both typed up their final drafts, which was a great learning experience in and of itself as they had to learn how to double space a document, center text for the title, and use spell-check.

Science

I wasn’t planning to do any formal science this year, but we were asked to review the new addition of Exploring Creation with Astronomy from Apologia, so we dived into that this week.  We had already covered the first five lessons when we did this curriculum before, so we spent most of this week reviewing by listening to the audiobook in the car, though we couldn’t resist jumping into Lesson 6 as well because the boys were really excited about starting their beautiful new notebooking journals.

Apologia Astronomy 2nd ed.
In addition to all this, the boys kept up their independent work in Bible, math, spelling, and grammar, but there wasn’t much worth noting there except to say that I like Fix It! Grammar more and more each week.  It introduces concepts so gently (this week they learned about quotations) and gives the students a chance to practice them in context.   It’s just enough for me to feel like they’re getting some systematic instruction without overwhelming them with worksheets.  I’m really glad we gave it a try!

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

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