TOS Review: A Journey Through Learning


A Journey Through Learning
is a lapbooking company started by two homeschooling moms (with some encouragement from their husbands!). Paula and Nancy had a desire to create quality hands-on materials for kids to use. What started with one unit study has grown into a company that offers multiple lapbooks and unit studies for homeschoolers. For this review, we received access to four lapbooks. My 6th grade son and I completed the Knights and Castles lapbook and we did some activities from the Astronomy and Space unit study.

We choose to begin with the Knights and Castles lapbook because we could work it into our history studies. The lapbook contains ten short lessons, with reading and activities. Lessons range from information about how to become and knight and a knights armor, to lessons about life in a castle and religion in the Middle Ages. We enjoyed the short reading portions (usually 1-2 pages) that allowed us to further explore the topics with library books or the internet. The actual lapbook activities were easy to complete and my son did most of them on his own.

We received the Knights and Castles download, which costs $13.00 (you can also purchase  a CD version for $14.00 or a print version for $21.00). I did have to print the activities, but I do not feel they put a drain on my ink cartridge. I chose to read the written material on the laptop with my son and print only the hands-on materials for him. You can use cardstock when printing these, but we just used regular paper. Each week, we completed about three of the activities, which is 1-2 lessons, and we finished the lapbook in a month. As I mentioned before, we did add in other books and online resources, and the lapbook comes with some ideas and activities you can use with those as well, including narration forms, book report forms, and note-taking forms.

My son is very into knights, so this was a fun study for us. He enjoyed creating his lapbook and was very proud of himself when he put it all together.

Our finished product looked like this:

Folder 2:

Folder 3:

This lapbook gets two thumbs up from both my son and I. I think you could easily add even more books and movies into it if you wanted to make it a longer study! The other Journey Through Learning product we took a look at was the Astronomy and Space unit study.

This unit study begins with a lesson on creation, then moves into the solar system, constellations, space travel, galaxies and the planets. There are 27 lessons total. Again, this is something you could use a base for your science, and add in additional books, websites, field trips and other learning activities. We have only gotten a few lessons into this so far, but we are enjoying it. The cost of the download for Astronomy and Space is $13.00, the CD is $14.00, and a print copy is $21.00.

A Journey Through Learning offered two other lapbooks for Crew members to sample. The Letters, Numbers, and Shapes lapbook is intended for preschoolers, and the Earth lapbook is for grades 1-4. To find out more about all of these products, including samples, check out the Journey Through Learning website here:

http://www.ajourneythroughlearning.net/info.html

To see what other crew members had to say about the products they tried, click here:
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Lemon Parmesan Broccoli

I am always looking for new and creative ways to cook veggies at my house. For this week’s recipe share I have another recipe for broccoli (I got this one from my mom 🙂 )

Ingredients:
5 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Steam broccoli until crisp-tender (I put mine in my steamer).
2. Place broccoli in bowl.
3. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Add the oil and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add oil mixture, rind, juice, garlic powder and salt to broccoli and toss to coat.
6. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

My kids eat this with no complaints and my hubby loves it! To check out other recipes from this week, click here:

TOS Review: CAP The Discovery of Deduction

Classical Academic Press makes homeschool materials for the study of different languages and logic. For this review, crew members got to sample The Discovery of Deduction which focuses on “the realm of formal, deductive logic”.

This program is designed for use with students in 8th grade and above. It is meant to be used after The Art of Argument: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies. The student text includes all of the lessons and activities your child will use. There are nine chapters in the curriculum, with topics ranging from syllogisms to propositions and relationships. The lessons include a reading section where the concept is explained with examples, and then an activity section that can include definitions and questions for discussion. Sometimes there are links for websites that contain additional information about the concept.



The Discovery of Deduction Teacher’s Edition
includes the entire student text with answer keys, sample essays, dialogues, teaching tips, and arguments. The teacher’s edition is a nice addition to the program, making it easier for you to “open and go”. The Classical Academic Press website even has a suggested schedule for using the lessons.

Using The Art of Argument was so easy with my oldest son. The lessons were well laid out and easy for him to follow on his own. I was able to assign him his reading, allow him to complete his activities, and then join him for discussion afterwards. I feel like the study of logic prepares my son for so many other things. He uses what he has learned in his reading, history and science courses, and I believe knowledge of this subject will help him when evaluating thoughts and ideas as an adult. The Discovery of Deduction is a great follow up to this program. The student edition of The Discovery of Deduction costs $26.95, while the teacher’s edition costs $29.95. I believe this would be a valuable addition to any homeschool program.

To see what TOS Crew members thought of this, and the Art of Poetry, which we also go to check out, click here:
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Come Over to Our House!

The topic for this week’s blog cruise is “Our Homeschool Day in Pictures”. I’ve taken a lot of pictures in the last month, and my kids are in their pajamas for the majority of them! I am starting to wonder if I should at least make them get dressed at lunchtime. 🙂 I am so excited to read these posts and take a peek at what a day looks like at my fellow crew members homes! Here, I would like to share some pictures of what a “typical” day may look like for us (although, every day can be a little different 🙂 ). My oldest son is a little self conscious, so the pictures you see of him will most likely be from the back!

Our day starts with family Bible time. Although both of my kids have their own Bible studies (my oldest uses MFW and my youngest uses Apologia), we do start our day together with the Lord. We usually pray, and practice our weekly Bible verse, and we may do some discussion on a Bible passage. Right now we are working through a study of Psalms 37 using the Doorposts of your House blog that we are really enjoying! There is a new post every day, with a short study for moms and activities to do with your kids. It’s a great way to start our day!

From there, it’s on to individual work. My oldest goes over his planner with me, so we both agree on what he needs to accomplish that day. Then, he usually likes to work in his room, coming to me when he has a question. (I do make sure to check on him periodically, but since he is in high school now, he is taking over more responsibility for his work.)

He also does math and science on the computer in the living room.

Although we have a homeschool table in one corner of the main room, my youngest prefers to do his work on the coffee table and the couch!

Usually in the afternoon, once our book work is finished, we have time for some outdoor fun, which I like to call P.E.! My youngest has been getting into archery and bought his own bow and arrow. We do have an archery range he goes to with my husband occasionally, but he also likes to practice in the backyard:

Also, since we do live in Florida, the mild temperatures allow us to spend time in the pool!

At some point in the day, we manage to find some time for free reading with a friend!

And time for a little music:

And that would be a typical, normal day at my house when we don’t have anything going on!! If you looked closely, you will notice that my kids are in their pajamas for most of the pictures! That is because, in general, they remain in them most of the day until it is time to swim or go outside 🙂 Does my day resemble yours at all? Leave me a comment and let me know! To check out what other crew members days are like, click here:

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Lasagna Soup

It’s Try a New Recipe Tuesday again and today I have another crockpot recipe to share! Lasagna soup is great for a cool night!

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
3 cups beef broth
1 cup water
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes (I like to use italian style)
2 cups noodles (I use spiral whole wheat or veggie pasta)

Directions:
1. Brown meat, drain, add to crockpot.
2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and mix.
3. Add broth and seasonings and stir.
4. Cook on low 6-7 hours.
5. When there are 30 minutes left in cooking time add water and pasta and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
Serve with some shredded Italian cheese and garlic bread!

This smells so good when it is cooking, and it is a very filling meal. To check out other recipes, click here:

See you next week!

Creative Book Reports

It is the last day of our teaching creatively blog hop and today’s topic is “hands-on projects”. I am the first to admit, I am not a huge hands-on kind of girl when it comes to most subjects. I love using science books that have a lot of ideas for experiments and projects, as well as using lapbooks for history because they make it easy for me!! One area where I do like to get creative is when it comes to book reports! I like to give my kids options outside of a typical report, options that appeal to their other learning strengths.

For my son’s most recent report, on the book Alas Babylon, he decided to do a project where he had to draw 5 pictures that represented the most important scenes in the book. For each picture, he had to write a paragraph explaining what the picture was and why it was important. For a project like this, I look to see what scenes he chose as important. I feel like that can give me a good sense of how well he “got” the book. If he read it in a cursory manner, he will pick scenes that are more “surface” oriented, and not necessarily truly central to the story. These are some of his pictures from this project:

The bombs:

The check the main character received which enabled him to get supplies so he could help everyone deal with the crisis:

The market where they got supplies (and prices went up considerably after the bombs)

This is a sample of what he did for this particular project. Other projects he and my younger son have done in the past are to make “Wanted posters” for some of the characters in their book. They had to draw a picture, state what they had done, where they were last seen, describe their behavior etc. Making a “map” of the book is another great project. Have your child create a map of the action of in the book. On the map they should draw or mark 5-10 places that were central to the action of the book. They should then write a paragraph (or explain orally) about what the place is, what happened there, and why it is important to the book.

I have also had my kids create a “presidential campaign” for the main character of the book. For this campaign they had to create a poster with a slogan, write a speech from that character’s point of view etc. My older son enjoys creative writing so one of his favorite projects is to write a “diary” from a character’s point of view. In the diary I ask him to describe the events of the book as though he were that character, in their words with their emotions.

When I was teaching some of the favorite projects among my female students were to plan a “party” for one of the characters in the book. Based on what they had learned about the character in their reading, they had to choose a theme for the party, create an invitation, guest list etc. The girls also liked the project where they wrote “letters” to and from the main characters of the book. Basically, they wrote the letters as if they were the characters discussing what had happened. I also had one project where they created their own paper dolls based on the book. They had to create different “storyboards” that represented different times in the book, then create clothes for their character and finally explain (again, orally or in writing) what was taking place.

When I do these projects with my kids (much like I did in my classroom) I try to give them a choice of projects that appeal to different learning styles. So, there is usually one project that may deal with writing, one that deals with something artistic, and one that involves building something or speaking. That way, they can choose the one they are most excited about, and when they do, they are usually motivated to do their project on their own. Projects like this also allow students who are excellent readers and really love books but may not be so great at the pencil and paper stuff a chance to show what they learned in a way that works for them.

Those are the types of projects my kids do at home. Do you have any great project ideas I might be able to use? If so, leave me a message in the comments. To see what other Crew members hands-on project ideas are, click here:

http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/hands-on-projects/

I hope you have enjoyed this blog hop, I have had so much fun! Thanks for joining us!

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Essentials in Writing

Essentials in Writing is a writing program created by Matthew Stephens, a former middle school English teacher. The DVD curriculum covers grades 1-12. For this review, I got to use the 9th grade curriculum, Essay Writing/Research Paper, with my oldest son.

While the elementary programs of EIW do include grammar, the 9th grade program does not. However, there are grammar lessons woven into the other lessons (for example, comma placement is taught when studying clauses). The focus of the 9th grade program is sentences, paragraphs, essays, and the research paper. Each of these areas is further broken down into smaller areas, like clauses and complex sentences, organizing and drafting paragraphs, planning and drafting essays, types of essays (i.e. expository, persuasive etc.) and the steps of writing a research paper.

For each section, there is a video lesson and corresponding worksheets the parent can print out ( a PDF is included on the final DVD). Video lessons vary in length, with shorter lessons at the beginning of the program (when studying sentences) that gradually get longer as you move into paragraphs and essays. For this review, I had my son work through the sections on clauses and compound/complex sentences (areas he still needed some work on) and then move into the first section on sentences, and finally, do the lessons on the personal essay.

Each day, my son would watch the video with Mr. Stephens, and then we would go over the worksheets together and he would complete the assignments. To start, I would say that Mr. Stephens is very clear and methodical in his teaching. I (and my son) liked the fact that he clearly modeled on the white board exactly what he was talking about. This made the concepts very clear for my son. The videos are high quality and easy to watch, and the length seemed suitable for my 9th grade boy (i.e., he didn’t complain about having to watch them!).

The follow up assignments were effective. The worksheets usually included the examples from the lesson, and then some type of practice assignment for the student (i.e., write 10 compound sentences). Assignments grew in length and involvement as you moved on through the topics so, while you could easily watch a video and complete the assignments for the Sentences section all in one day, as you get into the paragraphs, essays and research paper, you will likely need to spend one day watching the video and discussing the assignments, and then a few days working on the assignments. I think you could complete one section of the later topics per week, depending on your student.

One of my favorite parts of this program is that it gives you samples of “good examples” of the different types of writing along the way. Like, there are samples of “good” paragraphs, as well as “good” essays and even a research paper. I think this is very helpful for students, as they can get a good idea of what they should be aiming for. Of course, editing your papers is also covered, and I think the examples are useful for that as well.

The current cost of the 9th grade Essentials In Writing DVD is $40.00. For that, you get 3 DVD’s with all of the video lessons as well as the printables. I think this is an excellent value and I highly recommend it. In the future, the company is converting to PDF downloads of their materials, so that cost may come down even more. You can learn more about the DVD I got to check out here:

http://www.essentialsinwriting.com/ninth-grade.php

Essentials in Writing does have programs for grades 1 and up, to see what other Crew members thought of 9th grade, and the other grades we got to sample, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

When it all comes crashing down

It’s day four of our teaching creatively blog hop and today’s topic is homeschooling in a crisis.

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there at some point or another (and some of us are probably there now). The end of your rope, everything that can go wrong does. The crisis could be health, job, or financially related. It could be the loss of someone close to you, or the loss of or damage to your home. In life, things happen, but of course, the world doesn’t stop turning, and there are still things that need to be done. So, how do we handle unexpected catastrophes in our homeschool?

Well, it depends on the type of crisis. About two years ago we lost our home and were in a situation where we had to move, quickly. For that point in time, homeschooling kind of went out the window while we dealt with the situation at hand. There were houses to look at, things to pack, and other issues to be handled. For about two weeks, my husband, my kids and myself were too busy packing boxes and sorting through stuff to do any school. I still made it a point to read aloud to my kids before we went to bed, and since this all took place over a period of about two weeks, we were able to resume our scheduled once we got into our new place (admittedly, after we moved in I did a lot of “teaching” while I was unloading boxes!!). For the first week or so as we settled in, our school was mainly bible (which we did together) and reading and math (which my kids could do on their own). Our other subjects had to wait until we got things in order, but that was okay because we just school until we finish anyway.

But what about a more long term crisis? Last year my husband was injured at work and had to have surgery. He was out of work for 6 months and had a lot of doctor’s appointments, physical therapy etc. etc. For that time period my kids did a lot of school in the car, and the waiting room at various doctor’s offices and hospitals. We simply packed everything we needed into a backpack and brought it with us. Homeschooling is flexible, and you really have the ability to do it anywhere you would like. We saved things like projects and science experiments for when I knew we would be at home, but the rest of our school got done wherever we were! I like to think that my kids were learning flexibility through this experience. I know life won’t always go smoothly for them, and they need to learn how to adjust when stuff comes up.

I think it is natural for kids to become a little afraid when a crisis is going on, and I think that keeping some sort of homeschool schedule going can be comforting for them. A familiar routine can be something to hold on to when it seems like the whole world is going crazy! But at the same time, you have to be realistic about what you can handle while also dealing with a crisis. If it means stopping your homeschool for a short period, while you handle things, then do that! If it means cutting down on a couple of subjects for a while, then do that. The good thing about homeschooling is that you can always pick up where you left off once things settle down a bit, and sometimes, the most important thing during a crisis is simply being together as a family!

To read about other Crew members experiences with homeschooling during a crisis, click here:
http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/homeschooling-in-a-crisis/

Join me tomorrow for the last day of the teaching creatively blog hop, hands-on projects!

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Legos, Army men and Cars, Oh my!

Welcome to Day Three of our Teaching Creatively blog hop! Today’s topic is “toys, games and puzzles”.  I find this topic amusing because when I first started homeschooling my kids I made sure there were NO toys in the school area!! Toys were for play, they were a distraction!! They were for use after school!! It’s funny the things I have learned since we started this adventure. I have come to find that toys can have their place in our schooling.

My youngest son is Lego-obsessed. Seriously, at any given time he is building 3-4 different things with his legos. Some are projects from sets that he got (like the Millenium Falcon, the Hogwarts Castle, Batman’s Cave) and others are things he has simply come up with himself. At any given moment you could walk across my living room floor barefoot and yelp in pain when you step on a Lego you didn’t notice! (if you too have a lego fan at your house, you understand the pain I am describing 😉 ).

I decided to try and put his love of those colorful little squares to good use, and these are some of the ways I have done that. First, my son has used his legos to “illustrate” stories he has written. He has also used his legos to “recreate” famous places we have visited in our history or geography studies. Usually, after we have learned about an interesting place or historical site (say, the Sphinx or the Mayan ruins) my son will use books and the internet to do further research, and then he will spend some time building his masterpiece. Here is a picture of one of these:

Another toy we have found useful in our schooling is our collection of various plastic army men/policeman/firemen and their vehicles. They can be used for staging your own battle scenes (as we did for this picture…this is a WWII battle scene from our last school year):

My oldest son also has an interest in photography and filmmaking, and he has taught himself to make stop-motion movies using his matchbox cars. This is a painstaking process as it involves setting up the cars, then moving them inch by inch (or sometimes centimeter by centimeter) as you take each shot. He then downloads the pictures to our computer and puts them together to make a movie!! Personally, I am pretty impressed with his skill, considering I have a hard enough time downloading pictures and finding them after I’ve done so (grrr….where are our beach pictures?? I know I put them on here somewhere!!). I think he is learning valuable computer, photography and planning skills by doing this, and every time he makes a movie he gets a little better. This is one of his earlier projects:

matchbox cars short film

So, I have come to see toys as a useful learning tool in my homeschool. How do you use toys at your house? Leave me a comment to let me know! To see what other Crew members had to say about toys and games in homeschooling, click here:

http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/toys-games-and-puzzles/

Join me tomorrow for Day 4 of our hop! Our topic will be Homeschooling in a Crisis.

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Parmesan Potato Bites

This week, for Try a New Recipe Tuesday, I am going to share a recipe for one of my family’s favorite side dishes!

Parmesan Potato Bites:

Ingredients:
4 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:
1. Line baking sheet with foil or Reynolds Wrap parchment paper.
2. Cut each potato into 8 wedges.
3. Place wedges in bowl and drizzle with olive oil, turn wedges so they are all coated.
4. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and seasonings, again, turn wedges so they are coated.
5. Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until wedges are tender.

My husband and my kids loves these! We eat them with chicken, steak, pork, etc. They are a quick and easy side dish! To see other recipes for this week, click here:

A little of this, a little of that

It’s day two of our blog hop and today’s topic is “Schooling in the Kitchen”. First, let me say, cooking wasn’t always something I enjoyed. I never really learned how to cook at home, so making dinner for my family was a real chore. Early in  our marriage our meals were limited to Shake and Bake, spaghetti, burgers etc.

Since I started homeschooling and stopped working, I have found I have a real passion for cooking. I bought myself some cookbooks, a crock pot, and started watching a lot of cooking shows. I began sharing recipes with friends, and, I am happy to say, I now cook a variety of meals using fresh ingredients!!

All this to say, I think cooking is an important skill all of us should learn. I have no idea what God’s plans are for my children, or where they will end up when they leave home. However, I do want to make sure that when they leave, they are able to care for themselves, and to me, that means cooking, laundry and cleaning! So, my kids do spend a lot of time in the kitchen with me!!

My oldest son can make tacos, spaghetti, and mac and cheese, and he often assists me when I am making meals, so he is learning how to follow a recipe on his own. My youngest is quite adventurous. He once made cookies using the recipe on the back of the flour package!! Unfortunately, he used baking soda instead of baking powder and they didn’t come out quite right, but I think that was a lesson in itself.

Of course, the kitchen is a great place to teach fractions (very necessary when doubling a recipe), as well as practical skills like how to use basic kitchen tools and appliances. I think part of cooking also involves menu planning, so when I am working on our menus I try to involve my kids in deciding what to make, what ingredients we have or what we need etc. And yes, cooking in the kitchen with kids is frequently messier than when I am cooking alone, but, we also get a lot of time to talk and to laugh while we are cooking. In my kitchen, we don’t have a view of the television, so we use that time for conversation, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything 🙂

I am going to share some pictures from this last week when we made one of my boys favorites, chocolate chip cookies!! (I will be honest, sometimes I make them from scratch, but other times we just use a boxed mix 🙂 )

Little guy cracking the egg:

Big kid doing some measuring (he’s a little camera shy!)

Putting them on the pan. Watch the spacing!

The finished product:

To see how other members of the Crew do school in their kitchens, click here:
http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/schooling-in-the-kitchen/

If you have any fun kitchen activities I can try out, leave me a comment! I hope to see you again tomorrow!

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Loving to Learn!

It is time for the Spring Crew Blog hop and our topic this week is “5 Days of Teaching Creatively”. I love these hops, I always get such great ideas from reading all of the posts! I hope you will be able to join us each day! Today’s topic is “Delight-Directed Teaching”. What does this mean? Well, basically, it means building what you do around the things your kids are interested in! I think it will look a little differently for all of us, but I am going to tell you what it looks like at my house.

I first heard about delight-directed teaching when I was just beginning to homeschool and was glued to the internet searching for information! I came across the Heart of Wisdom website, and the way Robin described this method sounded beautiful, but also kind of scary for a first time homeschooler, so it took a little bit of time to build up to doing it!

The first time I really tried it was last year, for some of our science studies. My oldest son wants to be an FBI agent when he grows up, and he has an interest in all things forensics. So, I figured, why not build our science around this topic? I started by searching for materials, and I found some great ones at Home Science Tools. I ordered the Crime Scene Science Kit, as well as the blood typing kit. I had the Crime Scene Investigations book that a friend had given me, so I also ordered the materials for that.

This is one of the labs from that book, a handwriting analysis:

From there, I went to Amazon.com and searched for “forensics books for kids”. There were a whole bunch!! I cross-checked the books on their list with my local library to see which ones we could check out. I decided to order two books from DK Eyewitness to serve as our “spines”, the Forensic Science book and the Crime and Detection book.

Each day we would read a little from these books and do an experiment or two and then my kids would read from their own books that they had checked out. My kids each had a binder where they would write up a “summary” of the days reading and experiments, and I would have each child share what they had read about when they were done.

TJ reading his book:

Jake reading his book:

We tied this study in with a study of the Human Body using the Apologia books (which were great!). So, since we did science four days per week, we would spend two days studying the Apologia books and two days doing forensics! I have to admit, I was a little nervous putting all this together by myself, but you know what?? It was so much fun!! That was probably our best year of science ever. My kids learned so much and they still remember so much of what we did. My oldest really got to explore an area that he loves, and he often spent time outside of school doing further research and study! I am not a science minded person at ALL, but doing science like this was fun for all of us.

I think delight-directed schooling can bring a lot of joy to your homeschool. Don’t be afraid to make up your own studies based on your child’s interests. With the vast amounts of resources available these days you can come up with a great unit on just about any topic. My suggestion to anyone wanting to try this for the first time is to start with the internet. Do a search based on your own topic and see what’s out there. You might be able to find a great book, or website, or lapbook, or kit that you can base your study around. From there, utilize your library if you can. Check out as many books as possible on that topic and read! The books can be fiction or non-fiction (we did read-alouds of some great detective stories during our forensics study, and we watched a couple of movies too!). Have your child narrate (in writing or orally) or illustrate or act out what you have learned about. And have fun!! That’s the whole point! I think you will find that delight-directed studies will make up some of the most memorable things you do in your homeschool, and your kids will be motivated to learn on their own!

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this topic, click here:

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I hope that you enjoy our hop this week! See you tomorrow.

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Carnie Bowls (Crock Pot Recipe)

For this weeks recipe share I am bringing you another favorite crock pot recipe! This is one my best friend came up with and passed on to me!

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
1 jar salsa
1 can corn (drained)
1 can black beans
1 can chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning

Directions:
1. Add chicken to crock pot.
2. Add corn, beans, salsa and chicken broth.
3. Add taco seasoning packet and stir.
4. Cook on low 7-8 hours.
5. Serve with rice and garnish with cheese, sour cream, green onions etc.

There you go! Super easy and delicious! To check out other recipes, click here:

If you only knew

“What? You homeschool? Really? What’s that like?” This is a question I am used to getting from random people when they find out we homeschool. It is usually followed by a flurry of other questions or statements like, “Do you go to church?” “Isn’t it hard being with your kids all the time?” “Do you vaccinate your kids?” “Do you bake your own bread?” “How many kids do you have?” “Are your kids gifted/learning challenged etc.?” “You must have the patience of a saint!”.

Sigh…sometimes I feel like I should just prepare a written statement to carry around with me that I can just hand out to people so I can stop repeating myself. The thing is, I am only ONE homeschool mom, and, one thing I have learned is that homeschoolers are a VERY diverse group of people. I can answer questions based on OUR homeschool experience, but for people to generalize my answers to all homeschoolers would be wrong.

Yes, we go to church. In fact, our faith is THE cornerstone of our lives. My husband and I chose to homeschool our kids because it was something the Lord laid on our hearts (and believe me, we argued with Him at first!). While the majority of homeschoolers I know are Christian, the fact is, I also know many who are not. At my state homeschool conference (FPEA in Florida), I met many secular homeschoolers, as well as homeschoolers from other religious groups. While homeschooling may have begun as a movement among Christian parents, it has spread to include people from all religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. The one thing these parents have in common is a desire to give their children the best education possible, and they all feel they can do that at home!

There are also various reasons people homeschool, in addition to feeling the call from God to do so. I know a single mom who homeschools because she works as a flight attendant and homeschooling allows her to spend her time off with her kids (her parents care for them when she is at work). I know other families who also homeschool because one parents job has a quirky schedule, or requires a lot of travel, so, by homeschooling, that parent can also spend as much time as possible with the kids when they aren’t at work. I know people who homeschool because they have the ability to travel the world, and they want to be able to to take their kids with them so they can all experience that together. I know people who homeschool because their kids have some learning challenges and needed more one on one attention than they were getting in school. On the flip side of that, I know people who homeschool because their kids were far advanced and needed more of a challenge. The point is, there are as many different reasons for homeschooling as there are homeschoolers, and you could get a different answer every time you asked that question.

We have two children, both boys. Yes, there are many homeschoolers with large families, but there are also many like mine, with only a couple of kids, as well as many who homeschool only one child. There are also many homeschoolers who live on self-sustaining farms (which I think is awesome!) but,  we don’t all live that way. My kids and I started a small garden last year, and it’s been a lot of fun growing our own veggies (and it is economical too, which is important for a one-income family), but we also shop at the grocery store. If you have the ability to raise animals and grow all of your own food, and teach your kids how to do that, then that is a fantastic opportunity!! But not every one does. I wish I had learned to sew, and I am determined that someday I will, but right now I don’t make my own clothes either. I would like to, and I admire those that have that skill, but I don’t yet. What I am trying to say is, that just because you saw ONE homeschool family on TV doesn’t mean you know what all of us are like. It’s impossible to know that because we are all just so different. My homeschool life looks different from the other homeschoolers I know, because I tailor our life to fit us and our kids. The beauty of homeschool is that you can do what works for YOUR family, and every family is different!!

And if you are really wondering, yes, some days I think it would be nice to flip on the TV and veg out while watching an episode of House Hunters, or to go sit by the pool and just read a book, or go out with a friend for lunch. But, the thing is, usually when I do get a day to myself, after about half a day, I am missing my kids. Truly, it can be stressful because being a homeschool mom, you don’t get a lot of down time, but I would more than likely end up spending my downtime doing something useless anyway! This doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that my boys frustrate me to the point I want to pull my hair out, because I do! But isn’t that part of being a parent? Kids are kids, and some days they drive you crazy! But, then again, sometimes I get frustrated with people at the grocery store, and people in the Walmart parking lot, and just people in general! At the end of the day, my kids are still the ones I most want to spend my time with.

Finally, the patience thing. Believe me, I WISH I had the patience of a saint. I could use it! But, sadly, I don’t. I am just a regular mom who gets irritated when she has to ask a child for the umpteenth time to do something!! I get stressed out sometimes, and my kids don’t always get along, and my house is frequently messier than I would like, and some nights I order a pizza because I just don’t feel like cooking (and don’t even get me started on laundry!). I will admit that some days, I let things get to me and I lose  my temper, and say things I wish I hadn’t. I am no more patient than any other mom in the grocery store.  The only thing that is different about me is that I feel this compelling desire to teach my children at home. Even when I am at my most frustrated, I can take a step back and say that I am truly happy that my kids spend most of their time with me. I am thankful that, even when we have a bad day, I can go to bed and know that I am going to have a chance to spend the next day with them. Why? Because in my heart I feel that time is of the essence. The Bible tells us to “redeem the time”….to me, that means that life is short. I don’t know how many days I have here on this earth, but I do know how I want to spend them…with the people that mean the most to me!

So, for those that are curious about homeschoolers, I would say, don’t try to define us by a single category or statement, because that wouldn’t be accurate. Each homeschool family I have met are their own unique unit. Homeschooling is about the freedom to choose our own path, and I am very thankful that we are able to do so.

Lonestar Learning–Target the Question

Lone Star Learning is a Texas based company that creates learning materials and products for kids in the areas of math, reading, science and vocabulary. For this review, we got to use one of their online products, Target the Question Digital Edition.

This program provides short, daily practice in math problem solving for kids in grades 1-7 (they also have a Spanish version of the program for kids in grades 1-5). Bascially, your child will log in every day and complete a problem related to the weekly story, scenario, or data set. The idea came from a similar program for teachers to use on their bulletin boards, where they would post a “scenario” or “data set” for the week and then have the children use that to solve a short word problem each day. (i.e., they might post a chart showing the populations of 5 major cities, then, on Monday, ask students to solve a problem related to the size of the biggest city vs. the smallest city, on Tuesday, they might ask the students to find the average population etc. etc.)

When you gain access to the Target the Question program, you also get to download a file that goes along with the program. The download includes weekly problem solving worksheets, which you can print and use for you child to record their work and then file in a binder, as well as reference sheets and answer keys. I found the download to be a nice addition to the program, and we printed the reference sheets and the weekly worksheets.

I used this program with my 6th grade son, and while he is good at math, he could use some extra practice with word problems. He liked that Target the Question did not take up a lot of time. He could complete each day’s problem in about 10 minutes. This meant that there was no arguing about getting it done!! He liked to use a white board to work the problem, and then transfer his answer to his weekly problem solving sheet. I felt the problems were appropriate for his age, and good practice for him. There were a variety to the types of problems he did. In the first week, he worked with a data table showing the amounts of rainfall for different cities. In the following weeks, he worked with a “sign” from a local restaurant showing prices, discounts, specials etc. He also had scenarios regarding distances travelled in a week, numbers of books read etc. etc. I would usually let him log on and work the problem himself every day and then check his answer. If it was correct, we logged out and moved on, if it was wrong, then we would work the problem together to figure it out.

Some of the problems were easier than others, but I found he did have to really THINK when working on them. This was good practice in finding important information, deciding what operation to use etc. All of these are things he needs to work on. I know that as he gets older (and in real life) most of the math he is going to really use will involve word problems, and I have been looking for ways to add daily practice in this area for us, and Target the Question definitely filled that need for us.

A one-year subscription to Target the Question will cost you $59.99 (they also have other options for a two year or more subscription as well). When you think about it, that’s not a lot for an entire year of math practice. If you have a child who needs to work on problem-solving, and you want a program that is effective AND easy to implement AND won’t cause a lot of stress, I think this is worth it. To find out about all the subscriptions available click here:

http://store.lonestarlearning.com/shop/targetthequestiondigital/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about Target the Question and the other products from Lone Star that we got to check out, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.