Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: The One With Both Girls

It's been an easy, easy week school-wise. Mackenzie has a much lighter work, end-of-the-year, work load and Kayleigh has only been "schooling" a few days a week.  So this week, Kayleigh finished up last week's work. That seems to be happening a lot. lol

Mackenzie's load is down to math, grammar, Bible, science, and reading.  It's funny to call reading school because she does it for hours on end anyway.  At any rate, I did assign her a book for "school."  You can read about that choice here.  It might give you a chuckle. Especially for those of you who've been missing my posts about winter promise.

Mackenzie's Happenings

We started the five senses in science and we did some "scientific testing" involving our sniffers.

Fun fact: Most people can identify can identify about 4,000 different smells.  Those with particularly gifted sniffers can identify upwards of 10,000.  I don't think that either Mackenzie or myself are on the gifted end of that spectrum. lol

She had her last art class this week.  Sniff, sniff... Especially since she probably won't be taking it again next year.  The middle school class is on Fridays and I don't do stuff like that on Friday.  Friday is Busch Garden's day. Did I just say middle school in reference to my baby? Bite my tongue!

Her teacher isn't a stickler for the age thing and did say she could attend another class on Tuesday but we're planning on letting Kayleigh take a preschool music class and I'm not sure we want to pay for three classes.  Of course that means I have to go back to teaching art.  Sigh...

The highlight of her week was a visit from her bff, Macayla.  They've known each other since they were three when we all lived on Guam. My how they've grown.  I can't believe they'll be in sixth grade. Bad girls, growing up like that!


Kayleigh's Happenings

Raising Rock Stars Preschool/ You Can Read

We were on to Oo this week.  Our verse was "Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good." The verse wasn't of pleasing length so she wanted to eat it. When I wouldn't let her she decided to hang it up with the rest of her verses. She was a bit of a stinker when it came to her tracing.  She wanted to color the Os in instead of trace them.

We finished up the third YCR unit.  She's finally got them down.  We stamped them out and then highlighted them in sentences. On to unit 4.


All About Reading

This week in AAR pre-1, we worked some more on syllables. Instead of breaking down compound words, we broke down regular words.  Well, I broke them down and she put them back together. Then we had fun making an octopus craft. It involved paint AND sand. Double win. And octopus is a much better animal choice then nanny goat. lol

And because we love the octopus, we made another one using cheerios and googly eyes. Another double win in the world of octopus crafts.  


In math we did a 1-10 sequencing activity.  She cut out the numbered squares and glued them in order on another strip.


We also had some fun rolling a die and then dot painting the correct number of dots onto a coffee filter. She didn't like this as much as I thought she would.  Mainly because she wanted to be free to dot as much as she wanted.




Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

It's that time of year again.  Time for the Crew to vote on their favorite review items for this cruise.  It was really hard to pick just one product for each category as we were blessed with so many great products to review.  Without further ado, here are this years winners. If you were wondering what our family thought of the products, click on Our Thoughts to read our reviews. We were excited to see many of our favorites on the list.

Congratulations to all of the winners!!! We hope you'll sail with us again.

Favorite Reading Instruction Product: Reading Eggs / Our Thoughts
Favorite Writing Product: Write Shop / Our Thoughts
Favorite Language Arts Product: Progeny Press / Our Thoughts
Favorite Social Studies Product: TruthQuest History / Our Thoughts
Favorite Science Product: Amazing Science
Favorite Math Product: Math Mammoth/ Our Thoughts
Favorite Online Math Product: Math Rider/ Our Thoughts
Favorite Foreign Language Product: Visual Latin/ Our Thoughts
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Artistic Pursuits/ Our Thoughts
Favorite Christian Education Product: Apologia: Who Am I?/ Our Thoughts

Favorite Preschool Product: Before Five in a Row/ Our Thoughts
Favorite Elementary Product: All About Reading
Favorite Middle School Product: Write With WORLD/ Our Thoughts
Favorite High School Product: Excellence in Literature
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Excellence in Literature

Best Online Resource: Reading Eggs/ Our Thoughts
Best e-Product: Heritage History
Best Homeschool Resource: Apologia: Education the Wholehearted Child
Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: Apologia: How to Have a HEART for Your Kids/ Our Thoughts
Best Children's Book: Amazing Animals by Design / Our Thoughts
Best Game or Toy: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything / Our Thoughts
Best Hands-On Resource: Pitsco Education

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: eMeals
Best Customer Service: K5 Learning
Best Adaptable Resource: Creek Edge Press
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything/ Our Thoughts

Kids' Choice (age 0-12): Reading Eggs/ Our Thoughts
Teens Choice: Pitsco Education
All Around Crew Favorite: Visual Latin/ Our Thoughts

Click the Crew banner to read all of our reviews on these great products.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

For those of you who have been missing my...

 winter promise posts...

Do I have a treat for you...

When I logged onto Facebook today, I found this...

Oh yeah baby! don wants to be my Facebook friend.  Maybe he forgot that he banned me from posting on his forums.

And for the record, I have never posted on his forums.  I think he was being proactive incase I decided to post any of my questions to him or his unsatisfactory answers. (Quite possibly the smartest thing he's ever done since I've known him.)

And that's not all...

My bff, Andra, has been using wp's All American 1 this year.  It has not been a pleasant year for her at all.  She decided to plow through it though.  (On the bright side, there's been lots of stories of ridiculousness for me to listen too.  Don't worry, she'll be blogging about it eventually and I promise to share when she does.)

Anyhoooo...her most recent dilemma has been a read aloud issue.  As in they start reading a book (Great Horn Spoon) get fourteen chapters into it (out of 18) and suddenly wp stop scheduling it and schedule a new book.  They start the new book, Wild West, on p. 20.

And it gets better. She never received the Wild West! As you know, their shipping practices are deplorable at best.  Like myself, she never received an order confirmation listing everything she'd be getting and there were never any shipping notices or packing lists.  So it's not a real big shock that this could happen.  She went back and checked her website and didn't even see the new book listed there.

So when she got the FB request from wp, she decided to ask her question there.  And I thought that I'd share the exchange with you because I know how you love all this wp madness.  Please read on with the knowledge, that my friend is even more blunt than I am.  She's not one to mince words.  So read with that in mind.

Bwaa haa haaa!!  They took the book out and left it in the IG.  Which is par for the course with them as my Children Around the World core had books scheduled that they were no longer using. Classic wp!

So just in case you've been wondering, the problems are not just limited to the Children Around the World study.

But speaking of CAW, I've got another fun nugget regarding it.  Since Mackenzie has finished with her  "official" history for the year, and I want her to continue with some school reading, I decided to assign her some of our left over books from our wp misadventure. (Not anything written or published by them, of course!)  Seeing as we just finished studying Russia, and CAW covers Russia, I decided to use the reader that they selected.  I get out out my not-so-trusty wp IG and look at the index to see what week Russia is studied. Week 9.

 Then I pull out the reading schedule for the readers. (Which, f.y.i., is a single sheet of paper that I paid $8 for.  And they forgot to send it with the readers so it arrived in an letter sized envelope all rumpled and torn.) I peruse the schedule and see that Treasures of the Snow (by Patricia St. John who is in no way affiliated with wp) is scheduled for week 9.  Okay. I pull it off of the shelf. As it turns out, it's a book set in Switzerland.  Naturally. For realz. Of course. Seriously. I'm not lying.

If you'll recall, when actually studying Switzerland, they had us reading The Swiss Family Robinson. You know, that book that takes place on a tropical island thought to be in the Caribbean.  That shouldn't surprise me seeing as they have scheduled Heidi to be read during our study of Africa and Asia.


On a side note, if you're ever studying Switzerland, consider adding Treasures of the Snow to your reading list. There's quite a bit about the Swiss culture and it's been a good read. It might not, however, be the best choice if you happen to be studying Russia.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Brain Fluid...We Like It!!

Mackenzie has been studying the nervous system these last few weeks and we've been wrapping it up by focusing on the brain. The topic of the brain has been fascinating. The brain is truly a testimony to the perfection and intricacy of God's amazing design of our bodies.

Some interesting facts that we learned:

**The brains neurons cannot repair themselves.  Uh-oh!!!!

**While recent evidence shows that people can add a few neurons to their brains over their lifetime, the neurons that you have at birth will be the large majority of what you have to sustain you your entire life.

**The skull, while an important part of God's plan for protection for this fragile organ, is rough on the inside.  Rough enough to cut the brain.  (Who knew?  Well probably Derek Shepard. lol)

Wow!  This organ is vital to our daily lives, clearly it's important to take care of it.  It just re-enforces our stance on the importance of wearing helmets when participating in activities involving wheels or flying down a mountain.

Thankfully, our skull is only our first line of defense for our almighty brains.  God, in His infinite wisdom, also carefully packaged our wonderful brains in cerebrospinal fluid.  Or as I refer to it, brain fluid.  This amazing fluid, between the brain and skull, cushions and cradles the brain and keeps it in place.  It also helps to distribute the force of an impact on our brains when we take a blow to our heads.

Have you ever hit your head so hard that you can feel your brain sloshing around in there? Not fun but thank goodness for that fluid, now that I know about the rough inside of my skull.

So today we did an experiment to show just how important that fluid is. We used 2 eggs, a plastic Easter egg slightly bigger than the eggs, and corn syrup.

This is your brain.

This is your brain inside a skull without cerebrospinal fluid.

This is your brain experiencing an impact of the unpleasant variety.

Awww Snap!!!
And the inside of this skull was smooth.

This is your brain inside of a skull with cerebrospinal fluid.
(If there are holes in your egg, tape them up.  You don't want your brain to leak.)

This is your brain experiencing another impact of the unpleasant variety.
Poor brain!
Hooray for brain fluid!!!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: Write Shop Junior level D

Finding the perfect writing program has been a struggle around our house.  My daughter has a love/hate relationship with writing.  She likes to make up stories and such but loathes the act of actually putting it down on paper. And she doesn't even want to hear about the elements that should be included in good writing.  "Boring!"

Write Shop Junior is a program that I've seen around on various blogs but I'd never really considered it.  It  appeared to be heavy on crafty type activities which generally ups the teacher prep work. I'm really not the crafty mom and I certainly don't want any extra prep.

Then it showed up on our review list so I said "why not?"  It's not like it's a life time commitment.  Boy did the program surprise me.  In a good way.

About Write Shop Junior

WriteShop Junior is a creative writing program that appeals to many learning styles. As with all WriteShop products, WriteShop Junior helps you guide children through the steps of the writing process. To keep the experience fun for everyone, every lesson includes engaging games and activities that teach and review important writing and self-editing skills. And whether you have a more advanced child or one who is just beginning, this program is flexible so children can work at their own level. 

Book D is recommended for 3rd and 4th grade, but many of our test families also used it successfully with reluctant 5th graders (and even some 6th graders). Parents also appreciate being able to use the program with struggling learners.

Skills Covered:

Identify and use proper grammar and punctuation
Narrow a broad topic to a specific topic
Brainstorm before writing
Structure a sentence
Write a paragraph
Choose strong words instead of weak ones
Use emotion words to develop voice
Use the five senses to add descriptive detail
Self-edit and revise their work

Our Experience

We received Write Shop Junior and my fifth grader was a tad on the old side for the program and she doesn't have any learning struggles but I wanted to give it a go to see if would help her enjoy learning to write a bit more.

The program came with the teacher's guide, student activity guide, and my favorite, the TIME-SAVER pack in an e-book format.

Normally e-books are pretty simple to deal with, just open and go in Adobe.  However, the teacher guide is an Adobe portfolio file and that is a little different then a normal PDF.  I was a bit confused at first.  Then I clicked the "Files" button just left of center and life got a whole lot easier.  All the lessons were suddenly in a nice neat list and when I clicked on a particular lesson it worked just like a normal PDF. And it was really easy to use on my iPad.  I just opened the file in the free Adobe Reader app and clicked on the lesson I wanted.  Easy peasy.

Next up, choose a lesson plan schedule.  They offer three ways to schedule the program, ranging from lesson completion in two or three weeks.  Each lesson consists of the following activities:

*Activity Set 1: Fold-n-Go Grammar book (Yes, there is grammar instruction included. Score!) and Reading Log.  (We didn't do the reading log because we do enough reading that I don't need to keep track.)
*Activity Set 2: Pre-writing Activity and a Model & Teach session
*Activity Set 3: Review and Skill Builder & Journal Writing Practice
*Activity Set 4: Brainstorming
*Activity Set 5: Writing Project (sloppy copy)
*Activity Set 6: Edit and Revise (includes a handy check list)
*Activity Set 7: Publishing the Writing Project
*Activity Set 8: Evaluate the Work and an optional Do More activity

The student worksheet pack contains all of the pre-writing, skill building, brainstorming, fold-n-go, and check list sheets.  They are organized by lesson so you just have to click and print.  The time-saver pack contains all the little game elements that are needed for some of the games and activities.  Little things that the teacher would have to create and prepare in advance. But thanks to the Time-Saver pack I didn't have to create and prepare. All I had to do was print them on colored card stock and cut them out. Or have the student cut them out.  ;o) Love, love, love, LOVE the Time-Saver pack. We actually did all of the cutesy games thanks to this pack.

How'd Mackenzie like it? She loved it.  She called it fun and cool and she had a blast writing stories.  She enjoyed the fold-n-go grammar, the games, and even the writing assignments.  She didn't even cry when I had her write her "sloppy copy" by hand instead of typing.

Take a peek at what it looked like at our house.

Fold-n-Go Grammar


Pre-Writing, Model & Teach, Skill Building, and brainstorming fun


The best part for me is that it never took me more than 5-10 minutes to get any of the activities together.  And some of them look pretty involved, right?  And boy did she have fun writing the stories.  We completed 3 full lessons over the 6 weeks and she wrote 2 amazing stories.  And had fun doing it. She's so proud of them that she thinks they could be published.  =o)

So while she was a bit too advanced for it academically, she was enjoying writing!  That was a win for me and we are going to keep doing the lessons as long as she's enjoying them.  And I am definitely keeping their products in mind for my little one when the time comes.


Age Range: 3rd & 4th grade or reluctant 5th graders
Pricing: print version is $39.95, PDF version is $34.95
Click for Sample

And guess what?  They are offering 15% off Write Shop Primary and Junior products to our readers through June 15.  Just enter the code: CREW15   So pop by the WriteShop store!

Click the Crew banner below and read more reviews about various Write Shop products.

Disclaimer: I was given this product free for review purposes.  All opinions are my own or my daughter's.


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