Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Our Egyptian Study

We are currently working our way through Sonlight Core B. For the last two months we have been studying Egypt. This is actually the second time in two years that we have studied Egypt....you wouldn't know it however to talk to our children. They remember exactly nothing from our last history lesson on Egypt. At that time we were reading through Story of The World. I was apparently correct when I felt it was not the right curriculum for our young children. It is an amazing set of books and I learned quite a bit from them, just not quite right for younger children who need a more visual learning style.

So here we are spending two months studying Egypt for the second time. I decided to add quite a few hands on activities to our History curriculum this time around.

Our first activity was to make the pyramids out of sugar cubes! I found an old box out in the garage and flattened it out for the girls. They then looked at the map and set up the construction paper desert and Nile River. It took us several attempts to figure out how to stack the sugar cubes (which are now called "Sugar Dots" if you are looking for them in the store). We finally found that hot glue was the only way to go about this project. 

We decided to make the  Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Mycerinus, and the Pyramid of Chephran. Along with the Queen's Pyramid and a few boats sailing down the Nile River.

After the girls finished their pyramids our oldest daughter mixed her paints to get the "perfect brown" and started painting the cubes. I attempted to tell her that originally the pyramids were white thanks to Limestone overlays...she was having none of it however.

 Next up was a simple double crown project. Just a few seconds and a few pieces of construction paper and we were done.

I had to do some type of map project with the girls.....why not add in chocolate and icing? We made two giant chocolate chip cookies and then "painted" the landmarks on with icing, sugar cube pyramids, and chocolate kiss mountains.

This is just your standard chocolate chip cookie recipe divided into two small sheet pans. Flatten out evenly in the pan and bake till the center is cooked through. I believe it took about 5min longer than the package directions for individual cookies. Check on it regularly however since there is nothing worse than burnt cookies!

For the icing we divided about 1/2 cup of white icing into 4 small ziplock baggies. We added blue food coloring to two of the bags and green food coloring to the other two bags. Work the icing and food coloring together to get the desired color. After they were properly combined we snipped the corner off the bag and pipped the icing onto the cookie to represent the Nile and the Marsh lands.

I used a sharp knife to cut down the sugar cubes into pyramids...I do not recommend this being done by anyone other than an adult!

Addy our chocolate kiss mountains and you have a cookie map of Egypt!

Mummy week was a fun week in our house! We decided to make our own Mummy this time around. I however was not thrilled with the idea of mummifying a chicken. So we decided to make a Mummy Apple!

This was seriously easy. Simply peel and core your apple. I added a face...which might have left my husband shaking his head. Then place your Apple Pharaoh into  a jar and cover with 2 parts salt 1 part Baking soda. Let him sit for 1 week and then remove from the "Natron". Boom! You have a mummified Apple Pharaoh!

After the Natron solution the mummy would have been wrapped and placed in it's burial chamber....so we did that as well. We wrapped up one of the girls dolls in toilet paper and then they decorated a cardboard "tomb" for their doll.

I found this pretty amazing Mummy book at our local Goodwill for $0.10. Unwrap the Mummy! a Four-Foot-long, Fact-Filled, Pop-Up Mummy to Explore! is a 4 foot pop up Mummy with a ton of fun facts pertaining to Mummies and ancient Egypt. Our girls actually fought over who got to read the facts and discover all of the hidden sections within the book. Totally worth the dime I paid for it and a wonderful addition to the core books for this unit.

Next up we have the necessary Egyptian Feast!

This could not have been an easier dinner. Our costumes consisted of a little bit of black eyeliner, and a few white sheets.

Luckily the Egyptians had a pretty simple diet. We made a roast chicken and served it with fresh berries, whole grain bread, and honey for sweetness. I think the biggest hit of all was eating with their fingers since the Egyptians didn't use forks!

Overall we had a lovely time studying Egypt during the last two months and I am positive that the children will actually remember some of the facts in the future!

If you have done an Egyptian study I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Father's World Kindergarten: Creation Week

We are officially starting our My Father's World (MFW) Kindergarten curriculum! Our twins are 5 years old and have been working their way through Horizon's Pre-k workbooks for the last few months. We are getting to the point where they are ready to start reading so we are super excited to start kindergarten work. I have read countless reviews from other parents that stress how gentle an approach MFW takes in teaching little ones to read. Since we are switching our older girls to MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures (ECC) this fall it seemed like a natural fit to change the twins over from Horizon's to My Father's World as well.

I began by buying the Kindergarten teacher's manual, student sheets, literature pack, and manipulative items. I was lucky enough to find a used deluxe kindergarten set, with student sheets, on a MFW facebook swap page for $165. I then added the student sheets for $47 and the literature package for $131. That is a total of $454 for a savings of $124.

I could have been truly frugal and used the library for our literature books, we however are moving to the family farm for the Spring/Summer and the library is quite a ways away. It was simpler for my mommy stress levels to just purchase the books.

I spent one evening putting my student sheets together and paper clipping each individual child's weekly sheets together. I purchased a 3 inch binder and 26  tabbed dividers with pockets. After I had all of the student sheets put together I put each weeks sheets into the correct divider pocket.

I might have needed a 5 inch binder!

 I also purchased a velcro closured and expandable folder for all of the smaller cards that were included in the student sheets.

We started off our kindergarten exploration with the Creation Unit. I had intentions of doing a themed snack for each day of Creation....but with all of the History and Science projects going on as well as preparing for our relocation for the Spring/Summer....well you know how it goes!

We did have chocolate and vanilla pudding to represent the Light and Darkness in the first day of Creation. Okay....maybe I ran out of Cocoa powder and it was just Light represented....hey it is the thought that counts!

I did manage to get my act together to do a themed snack for the fifth day of Creation.

This was a very cute and very simple snack to put together. First bring 4 cups of clear juice to a boil. Meanwhile add 4 packages of Gelatine to 1 cup of cold juice. I added blue food coloring to the juice as well to represent the ocean being blue. Once the juice has come to a boil add it to the cool juice, gelatine and food coloring being sure to whisk well.

I added my gummy fishes to the bottom of an 8x8 pan...

And then poured my blue "Jello" mix over the fishes...

After refrigerating the "Jello" for several hours it came out very firm and easy to cut into squares. The kids had a lot of fun finding the "prize" in their square.

We did manage to complete our Creation books as well. The girls had a lot of fun cutting out and gluing the numbers into their books. Coloring......not so much. They are just not the coloring type I guess.

Over all I think this 10 day Creation week was a hit! I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the curriculum has to offer!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Big Exciting News!

 Our family has spent the last few months dreading an upcoming deployment. I admit I was getting pretty depressed thinking about 6 months of maintaining our schedule alone.
After talking with my husband and family we made the radical decision to close up our home here in New Jersey and move to my Great Grandparents home in Kentucky.

The house is in the middle of the family farm, currently farmed by my Grandfather, in an extremely rural area of the Appalachian foothills. I lived in this farmhouse from age 5 to 10.  I remember balmy nights spent catching lightning bugs, countless hours spend slashing in the creek, and many many afternoons sitting on the front steps eating popsicles and watching the cows graze in the lower fields.  I remember bottle feeding calves, playing with my rabbits, putting baby chicks on my head, and getting paid $0.01 for every thistle head collected. There were the woods to explore, the train tracks to walk, and the garden to tend. I remember my parents bringing home my baby brother, afternoons spent with my mother in the kitchen, target shooting with my father, and oh yes that massive trench he spent what felt like an entire summer digging in our yard.

 I am probably romanticizing my childhood a bit here as I know there were also chores to do and probably many many boring days mixed in there as well. The thing is I don't remember those things. I remember the amazing and honestly very simple things that truly mattered.  When I think about my children's childhoods I am not as enchanted. They have a square backyard mashed in among all of the other square backyards. Don't get me started on the technology that has taken over our lives. Between the TV's, video games, and kindles it seems like they are always in some way staring at a screen. There is no adventure in their lives. There is no exploration or simple pleasures.

What is a mama to do? Seems pretty simple to me. We are closing up our house here and packing up the van with the essentials. I am extremely blessed that my father is flying in to help us with the 14 hour drive to Kentucky. I am also blessed beyond measure that my Grandfather has not only offered us the farmhouse but actually seems happy that we are coming to invade his life. We will be living in the vacant and fully furnished home within a short walk through the pastures to his own home.

We will be living without the noise of tv, internet, and video games. We will be enjoying the quiet and the simple pleasures that will be surrounding us.

Will we get bored? Yes.
Will we miss all of our modern conveniences? Yes.
Will we survive? Yep.

Will we still miss dad/husband? Oh yes.

I am at a very odd place. To be both dreading something and looking forward to it at the same time. To know that we will have such an unforgettable 6 months while my husband is serving overseas away from his family is very hard. I am attempting to be as supportive as possible to his needs while still working towards what is in essence is an extended vacation for ourselves. As amazing as our summer will be I would give it up in a second to keep my husband home with our family.

It is time to make lemonade out of life's lemons however. So I hope you will join me as we start our newest adventure. Life at Strawberry Hill Academy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


We are excited to share that we were chosen to review GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN!
Critical Thinking Company Review
 We are always on the lookout for fun and educational math products. So when we were chosen to review GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN I was very interested to see how it worked. 

This is an online streaming product, not a download. What does that mean? It requires an internet connection to work, runs through an internet tab, and requires a username and password for each user.  We were able to run the program on our windows based touch screen laptop as well as on our Kindle Fire. 
I have since received notice that there have been some changes to the Kindle Fire and there have been some problems using the product on the Kindle Fire. They are working on fixing the problem. The product is however accessible through their other supported platforms: Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac Computers, Apple iPad, or Sansung Galaxy Tab 4. As well as on the supported browsers: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Moxilla Firefox, and Apple Safari 6 and 7. 
We are a one laptop family so online products can be difficult for us to implement. Having the GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN on their kindles was a MAJOR selling feature for our family. We are very happy to say we did not have any problems using the Kindle Fire for our program. We were able to set up the program through Silk on each kindle and enter the usernames and passwords for each child. When it was time for the children to do their math I would ask them to complete a certain number of "squares" and they were able to sit down, log in,  and do their work at the same time without my hands on input.  

We used  GPALOVEMATH with our oldest two daughters. Our oldest daughter used the 5th grade program while our 8yr old used the 3rd grade product. When each child opens their screen they see rows of different colored squares. Each line is a different subject area and each square is an individual lesson.
As they complete squares more open up, or lock down, until the child has completed the squares in the order the program requires. This prevents the child from finishing an entire year of row one and skipping row two or three. 

While working through each square the cartoon character walks them through the lesson and helps them with their practice problems. The students then complete the "test" questions and receive awards based on their "test" scores.

After so many completed squares the student is able to earn real life rewards that are programmed in  to the program by the parent. As you can see above our 3rd grader received 2 awards with the next reward to be a 15min snuggle time with a parent. Our 3rd grader is a cuddler and loves having one on one time snuggling with a parent. This was a HUGE motivator for her. Our 5th grader however does not like to be touched so her rewards centered more around having a parent to do her chores for a day, or choosing a special dinner. I enjoyed being able to set the rewards for each individual child based on their needs.

I also enjoyed receiving an email after each child completed a lesson. We are a very busy family and there are times when I needed to assign a lesson while I took another child to an appointment. It was helpful for me to be able to see that the work I assigned was being done even I was not physically present.  I also couldn't help but be thrilled when I would get an email telling me that they had completed a lesson when I had not asked them to do so. The weekly emails outlining the children's progress was very helpful for allowing me to keep track of their progress and see where they needed more time and effort.

Our girls really liked using GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN and I am looking forward to using it with our younger children down the line. 
 Interested in learning what the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members have to say about  GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN? You can click here or on the banner below to find out!

GPA Learn Review
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Our Review of Math Analogies Level One!

Our family was blessed to be chosen to review an amazing product by The Critical Thinking Co.!
Critical Thinking Company Review
As I have shared before our daughters are not thrilled with math in any way, shape, or form. Our house seems to have been skipped by the little fairy that hands out the love of math genes. So when we were offered a review spot with The Critical Thinking Co. to review their Math Analogies Level 1  I jumped at the chance. My hope was that a new way of thinking about math would spark an interest in the subject that we were lacking from our current books.

Critical Thinking Company Review
We received an email containing the link to download the Math Analogies Level 1. This is a Windows software download for Grades 2-3. We used the software on our windows based touch screen laptop without issues. We saved the software to our desktop and it was very simple for our daughter to start and then use the program on her own.

The software begins with a sample of how to solve various analogies. We found this to be very helpful as our children had never completed anything like this before. The software walks you through the though process when approaching an analogy and how to chose the correct answer.

The analogies themselves are all fairly straightforward and I found to be age appropriate for a child working at a 2nd to 3rd grade math level.

 The work ranged from currency:
and shapes:
to fractions:

and some analogies that made even me stop and really think about what the correct answer was...

The work was varied enough to remain interesting and challenging enough to really make a difference. I found that when I sat down with our daughter to help her with a problem I could feel my brain "shift" into a completely different way of thinking. It is hard to describe but I could feel how completing these analogies worked a completely different part of my brain from your standard math problems. Our daughter enjoyed completing a few analogies per day as part of her math assignment for the day. I do think that adding a completely different approach to thinking about her math problems helped her with her future assigned work.

We really appreciate The Critical Thinking Co. allowing us to review their Math Analogies Level 1 . The Critical Thinking Co does not just offer Math Analogies software however. They offered several different products for the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review this month.

Alphabet Song Game (Windows software download) (Gr. Toddler - 1)
Math Analogies Beginning (Windows software download) (Gr. K-1)
Math Analogies Level 1 (Windows software download) (Gr. 2-3)
Math Analogies Level 2 (Windows software download) (Gr. 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 1 (physical book) (Gr. 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 2 (physical book) (Gr. 6-8)
Pattern Explorer (physical book) (Gr. 5-7)
World History Detective Book 1 (physical book) (Gr.6-12+)

You can find reviews for all of these products by clicking here or on the banner below!

Critical Thinking Company Review
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, March 13, 2015

Our Geology Unit!

When I asked our girls what they would like to study for science this month they chose Geology. I am always happy to feed their interests so a Geology unit worked for me! 

My goal was to complete this entire unit for free so my first stop was the library to look for our "textbooks". I chose:

The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth
Rocks and Minerals

I sat down one evening, looked through the books, and picked out the sections I wanted the girls to learn. I filled out our assignment sheets for the month and started planning our hands on activities.

We decided to cover the layers of the Earth, Earthquakes, Volcanoes,  Geysers, rocks and minerals.

 Our first activity was to learn the layers of the Earth. We found a very simple activity involving making a model of the layers of the Earth using playdough. We however did not have any playdough in the house so we first had to make homemade playdough


This was a very simple project that involved rolling out a new color of playdough for each layer of the earth and then placing them over the previous layer. The girls really enjoyed the entire project and were able to easily memorize the layers and then teach them to their siblings.

We of course HAD to make the prerequisite baking soda and vinegar volcano. The girls were thrilled when we got to this project. So thrilled they didn't even complain about having to cut out a million strips of newspaper.

We built our volcano around a small mason jar and coated the newspaper strips in equal parts of elmers glue and water. There was so much excitement over the volcano and the impending eruption that there was no waiting for the volcano to dry so we could paint it.  So after adding all of the newspaper strips we covered the volcano with strips of brown construction paper.

We placed 1/2 cup of baking soda in the jar and used approximately 1 cup of vinegar with red food coloring to trigger the "eruption". I am very glad I placed a towel under the volcano as it got pretty messy!

You can find the links to all of our Geology Unit ideas on my pinterest board. I would love to complete them all this month however we have some very hands on History projects going on at the moment as well. I look forward to sharing those all with you very soon.

If you are completing a Geology Unit of your own I would love to hear about it!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Our Review of Digital Science Online

We were extremely blessed to  be asked to review Visual Learning Systems online Science curriculum! If you have been reading my blog for a while you know I have been putting together my own Science curriculum this year. When we were offered a chance to review this online Science curriculum I was more than excited to give it a try!
Visual Learning Systems Review

When we signed up to review the Visual Learning Systems program we were given access to their entire online Digital Science program!

Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) 
Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12)

This is an internet based program that we operated through our windows based laptop without any difficulties.

We were scheduled to study Physics during the time period of the review so I was very excited to see what the program had to offer.  I was not disappointed. When we logged into our account we found that each grade level was broken down into various choices for subjects. For the Elementary level this included Physical, Earth, and life subjects. Once you chose a subject area you were shown a plethora of options for lessons.

We studied:
Exploring Matter and it's Properties
Exploring the Building Blocks of Matter
Changing Phases of Matter
Exploring Energy
Forces in Fluids
Things in Motion

Once we clicked on the lesson we wanted to study we were taken to the video teaching the topic with chapter options available to the right. This made it very easy for me to decide if this particular video fit well with what I intended for the children to learn that day as well as to review a section the children seemed to be having problems with.

As you can see there are four tabs available within the lesson. The teaching video (above), animations (Short repeating videos on topic), images (Still photos with notes included), and Teachers Guides. Within the Teachers Guide there are several very helpful worksheets for each lesson. These include a Pre-Test, Post-Test, Video Review, Vocabulary, Writing Activity, and sheets detailing specific concepts covered in the video. 

We found this curriculum to cover a wide range of topics and to be extremely easy to use. Our 8yr old daughter is dyslexic so a video based option works very well in our family. The videos were very well put together and offered a great deal of variety in terms of the videos provided. Each chapter within the video used different examples and video materials to show the concept the student was learning. This helped keep our children interested in the material being covered.

I loved that I simply had to set up the computer, start the video, and walk away. The video did all of the "work" leaving me free to catch up on things that needed my attention. I printed off the worksheets for our girls at the beginning of the week kept them in their binders. They were very easy to pull out and complete as the week progressed. The children seemed to really enjoy the videos and retained quite a bit of the material as we progressed through the lessons.

We are looking forward to continuing to use this online Science curriculum from Visual Learning Systems in our future studies!

Want to know what the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members had to say about this curriculum? You can click here or on the banner below to find out!

Visual Learning Systems Review
Crew Disclaimer

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