Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spring (? in February?) Homeschooling...Ice Chimes?

We've had some crazy weather this week (I think just about the whole country has), with balmy to frigid temperatures. What was crazy was the extremely fast change.
Check out this screenshot of the temperatures on Wednesday evening (midnight-ish).
We were at 58 degrees and just barely north of us it was 38 degrees.
Yowza! Strong winds and thunderstorms accompanied the 20 degree weather change, but they brought us a lovely afternoon. 

Middlest headed out in his Kayak to do some early fishing, now that the lake is *mostly* unfrozen. 

For Eldest, Youngest and I, this homeschool moment was brought to you by ENO (hammocks ~ and my yellow/blue one is on sale right now for $59.99) Childhood of Famous Americans, and Masterbooks Science's The Fossil Book.

It was very pleasant until the wind started to pick up again. Much of our time was spent enjoying our books (I had my kindle with me) to the sound of these "Ice Chimes."
It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was~ waves from the wind (and sometimes the boy in the kayak) were hitting the remaining border of ice, breaking off small chunks of ice which were then thrown agains the larger ice shelf, which resulted in this pleasant sound...

The wind did pick up as you can hear towards the end of the video, so we quickly packed our hammocks up, and headed home, right before another rainstorm swept through.
How was your weather this week??


Thursday, February 25, 2016 Pro Plan (Printable quizzes, lessons, and worksheet generators Review}

As part of the TOS Review Crew I was recently given a one-year subscription to's Pro Plan, which gives me access to all of their resources for all ages. offers:
  • Printable tests and worksheets covering a wide range of topics from PreK-12th grade~
    • Arts
    • Early Education
    • English Language Arts
    • Life Skills
    • Math
    • Physical Education
    • Science
    • Seasonal and Holidays
    • Social Studies
    • Study Skills/Strategies
    • Common Core ELA
    • Common Core Math
  • Math Worksheet Generators
  • Printable Game Generators
  • Lessons in:
    • English Language Arts
    • Math
    • Science
  • Game Generators
    • Bingo
    • Word Bingo
    • Wordsearch
  • Test Maker that can be populated with their library of over 130,000 questions or your own questions for quizzes, tests, and worksheets. The ability to make and print your own tests/quizzes, is probably most useful for those who unschool or create their own curriculum, and are required to have portfolio materials to submit. The rest of us use materials that have quizzes and tests incorporated. ;) 
  • Online Testing that allows you to schedule tests for each of your students
  • A dedicated space for you to upload your own content for test and worksheets  
For the purposes of this review we were asked to focus on the materials for the upper grades. With the wide variety of resources, I was hoping that they would be useful for our homeschool. We had mixed results with the various resources.

I checked out a number of worksheets and realized that they are less informative worksheets than quizzes for material that we may or may not have covered. For the purposes of this site, I would suggest that "worksheet" = "quiz." I actually started to feel a little like a public school teacher, who is required to teach for the test, as I searched through the elective materials available, so I backed off from the worksheets for my older children, as they didn't actually coordinate with anything they were currently working on, so would have been an exercise in frustration. Again, I think these would be fantastic for someone who uses a boxed curriculum that coordinates, or who puts together their own materials, and uses the quizzes as a starting point, as they put together their own lessons.

I printed up some of the worksheets for my youngest, and we had good success there, as his materials are a little more straightforward.

I did assign some random lessons and tests for both of my older children, and we had mixed results there as well~
Eldest's first experience with a lesson/test was not stellar. Part of that was my fault. When I set her test up I didn't know to click that first check box, so she wasn't able to go back and forth from one question to another.
Although she expected to be able to, as there was a "back" button. Since she wasn't actually planning to "change" her answers, this wasn't really something either of us had considered, she was just skipping the ones she didn't know right off the bat, to do the ones she did... typical SAT test taking strategy that backfired here.

I also hadn't clicked the "Enable Practice Mode" check box, which it turns out would have been a good idea, so that she could retake the test. Because I didn't, she was locked out of being able to take it again, and complete the questions that she had skipped (thinking that she could return to them...). I tried to send it to her again (And deselect her brother), but it turns out that one can only add students, not delete them. I *was* able to send her the link, so that she could take it again, with the ability to go back and forth. 

Eldest: even though we ran into issues with the test on using Parallel Structure, she enjoyed the quotes from great literature, and the exercises required in the test. One of the questions that she did answer the first time through the test amused her, so she sent me a screenshot:
Note the greyed out "previous question" ... oops! 

Here is another bit, from the teacher end of things: Can you guess what she wrote about??? Her answer is the "Student answer" following the "Sample answer that is included to help the teacher assess the student writing.

Yes, our doggy had surgery, and at night is required to wear "The Cone of Shame and Destruction" :) Clearly, fodder for creativity... ;)

My sense is that the ELA resources (And math resources if they coordinate with what your students are studying), are probably the most intuitive to use. The Science resources really have to match up well with what you are studying to be extremely helpful, in my opinion.

For Middlest, my son went through a lesson on fish (because he loves fish/fishing, and reads about them/it all the time), and took the test, but the site never showed that he actually took the test, and his results never came through.
Middlest's input: "The tests aren't set up very well in conjunction with the lessons~ there were questions on the tests that weren't discussed in the lesson, so that was confusing and discouraging."
Here is a screenshot of a portion of the lesson, which included a video. Side note: he enjoyed the video, although he would like me to note that this is a secular company, so don't expect your science to have a Christian Worldview... ;)
It's important to note that the "Related worksheets" and "Related Lessons" only show up on the teacher side, not on the student side, so if you want them to do the related worksheets or lessons, you have to assign them. The "Additional Resources" DO show up on the student side. 

Final thoughts: 
All in all, I would say that this is a very useful site for those who enjoy making up their own worksheets, or creating a course based on ready-made worksheets. There are a few quirks that could be smoothed out (like the test results that disappeared into cyberspace, and making the test taking process more intuitive~ it wasn't clear that it wasn't possible to skip questions and come back to them~). We may try the scheduling aspect again, but to avoid frustrating my children for now, I have decided that we will print most quizzes/worksheets. It's great to have that option! :)

I think the English/Language Arts resources are very helpful, particularly when you are covering a specific topic (say, hyperbole), and you want to find a ready-made, printable worksheet.

For the younger set, the math worksheet generators, and the ELA worksheets could be used every day!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Don't know much about U.S. Elections? Lap-Pak from Home School in the Woods (Review)

Goodness, I just LOVE Amy Pak's Home School in the Woods products! Really, you don't hear me gush too often, but I'm telling you, she creates something really special!  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may have seen other Home School in the Woods products that I have reviewed in the past, one as recently as this summer (Home School in the Woods: Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt), as well as near the very beginning of my blogging with the New Testament Activity Pak in Spring 2009, and a couple in-between, Olde World Style Maps in winter 2010, and the Great Empires Review in spring 2013. This time we were sent a very timely and appropriate product for review, HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections.

Eldest is all set to vote in the
Super Tuesday Primary!
For the purposes of our review (especially with this specific pak, given that it *is* an election year, and I have a new "Millennial Voter" in the house), we chose to do this study together, and everyone had a part. This was a great gap-filler/review for my olders, and introduction for my youngest into the political process.

This particular product was sent to us as a digital download. When you open the zip file up it should look something like this:

The easiest way to go about things is to click that "Start" file at the bottom. It will open up in a browser window that has everything laid out for you. You can see that I have the main page open, as well as the Full Page Text, the Project Directions, and the Lapbook Assembly Directions.

The Homes School in the Woods products do require a little organization on our end, but the end product is sooooo worth it! (And so much of the organizing has been done for us, we just need to put it into action!) All the way through, with almost every project, my 18 year old daughter kept exclaiming how neat each one was, and how almost each one surpassed the next. This truly is a product for all ages. :) 

Our Process I decided to print ALL the pieces ahead of time so that we wouldn't have to stop to print before each section. It took me about 45 minutes to an hour to collect the assorted papers/cardstock sheets, put them in the correct order, and to print them.

The text:
One can choose to:

  • Use the audio MP3s (this is great if mom has lost her voice, or even just to give her a break... my kids greatly prefer when I read to them, so we listened to the audio enough to note that it is read by a very pleasant male voice)
  • ***Read aloud (via the "Full Page Text")*** (This was our choice)
  • Have the student independently read the printable booklet. (We didn't print it up ourselves, so I'm including a photo of the booklet for your information)

Projects for Lap-Pak:
When completing the projects, it is important to use and follow the project directions, as some answers are found there, and not in the text.
cooperative coloring project between 8 and 18 year olds
  • Mom read the text out loud (With the exception of our brief foray into the well done audio).
  • Eldest (who has an affinity for things paper-pieced) was in charge of the cutting/pasting/assembling of each project. She also helped out with some of the coloring, which ended up being a cooperative effort. 
  • Middlest was mostly responsible for anything that required being hand-written, as well as being on the hook to help answer questions. He did a little bit of cutting, and coloring as well. 
  • Youngest did the majority of the coloring, and was also involved in answering questions, "dictating" some of them to his older brother. ;)
A few things to note: There are 21 different labbook projects which correspond to the text. I didn't time it, but I would guess that if you do 2-3 projects/day it will take about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes (depending on your student, whether they are coloring in detail, or whether you simply print on colored paper, with no coloring), reading to finished project. You choose how much time to spend by how much you do each day.
*You should allow for 1-2 hours to assemble the lapbook once all the project pieces are assembled, and you will probably go through almost an entire roll of double stick tape. :) 

Finished Lapbook

Here are some more photos of our project with a few closer details (kids were camera shy as everyone is dealing with colds and feeling a little miserable, so you just get to see their handiwork):

As you can see, my 18 year old daughter had fun adding some detail to various parts of different projects~ stars, stripes, and fireworks, anyone? This was very enjoyable to do as a family project. As I mentioned before, it was definitely a good review/gap-filler for my older children, as well as a good introduction to the political process for our youngest. Now he understands more of what we're talking about as we've listened to some of the debates and have discussed the caucus and primaries that have taken place thus far. I highly recommend the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak for any homeschool. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Saturday, February 13, 2016

"X" is for eXcellent (Charlotte Mason Inspiration #30)

"X" being a difficult word for a through the alphabet series... 

"X" is for eXcellent

Saturday, February 6, 2016

"W" is for Wonders (Charlotte Mason Inspiration #29)

As I look around, I am so amazed and awed by the Wonders of God's creation!

What wonders did you observe this past week? 
Feel free to share in the comments! 




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