Tuesday, April 19, 2016

So what's up?

In case you have not noticed yet.....we do things a bit differently around here!

Our family has chosen to complete a year round school schedule in the past. We felt that taking 3 months off each year allowed the children to forget the facts they had learned in the previous school year. Of course this caused us to lose at least 2 months each fall in reviewing items we have already covered.

Nothing makes me twitch more than teaching a concept twice.

This spring I considered taking a summer break for the first time since our very first year of homeschooling. I quickly decided it wasn't going to work for our family. We need to be able to take time off sporadically throughout the year. My husband's military schedule means there can be deployments and permanent changes of stations on very little notice. We need to be fluid with our schedule and get our 180 days of school completed while working around out unique lifestyle.

With all of that in mind we are excited to be starting our newest year of school on May 1st! We will be working on a three week "on" and one week "off" schedule this year.

This year we will have five children joining us for school! Our oldest is starting 7th grade. How in the world did THAT happen? We are in all new territory these days.

So what are we up to this year?

All 5 of our children will be working on My Father's World Exploration to 1850 as our core program. This program covers Bible, History, Science, Art, Music, and read alouds.

Then we are on to our individual subjects.

7th grader:
Apologia's General Science
Math U See Zeta
Logic of English
Here to Help Writing

5th grader:
Math U See Delta
Logic of English
Here to Help Writing

1st grade twins:
Math U See Alpha
Dancing Bears Phonics
Handwriting without Tears

Math U See Primer
3 Dinosaurs ABC phonics packs

I have to say after two years spent studying creation through Roman times I am excited to start covering more recent history. I am especially excited to start working on American history. It will be a nice change of pace for our family. I am hoping that living so close to Philadelphia and Washington DC will offer up some great opportunities for field trips and living history projects.

We are looking forward to sharing our newest school year projects with you all!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Our review of Talking Fingers Inc.

Our family was chosen to review a cool new phonics program! We were given a one year, multi-user, subscription to Read, Write, &Type from Talking Fingers Inc.!
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
So what exactly is Read, Write & Type by Talking Fingers Inc.? It is a research based online phonics program that covers a variety of aspects within the Language Arts spectrum. This program uses lovely animation to teach the children phonics, spelling, word processing, punctuation, and keyboarding. The program is aimed towards children in the 6-8yr range so we decided to use the program with our 6 yr old twins.

We ran this online phonics program on our windows based laptop with no problems. It was simple to set up and navigate once we had begun the program. Our girls were not able operate the initial start up process on their own. Once I got them started on a lesson however they were then able to navigate within the lessons on their own.
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Our girls are working their way through first grade this year. While their math and other core subjects are going well we were struggling with the phonics side of their school work. I have mentioned before that I am not a "drill and kill" type parent. I do not want to sit in front of a child and drill them on flash cards any more than they want to sit there and parrot back the sounds required. I try and find more hands on approaches that allow the child to learn the material without killing their love of learning. I have to say this program definitely fits the bill!

The Read, Write, & Type program has found a fun way to have the child complete repetitive work in an effort to better cement the material into their memories. Through the use of games and activities the program has the child repetitively going over the letter sounds without even realizing they are working. This program also takes in to account how the brain recognizes patterns and uses that knowledge to help the child learn to multi task and complete several different goals at once.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
I love that this program is child centered and self contained. No extra materials needed or long parent led interactions. Sometimes it is really nice to have a child sit down with a laptop and complete a lesson on their own while I work with one of the other children. With five children currently "doing school" at our house it is wonderful to have some hands off time that is still productive.

Each of these lessons can be completed in just 15 minutes. Our girls didn't even realize they were doing "work" they found the program to be a fun game they got to complete each school day. They actually begged to be allowed to play "the games" just one more time. It was so much fun that our older girls were bummed that the program did not have an option for their age range.

I am looking forward to continuing this program for the rest of the school year.

Want to know what the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of Talking Fingers Inc a nd their Read, Write, & Type program? Click HERE or on the banner below to find out!

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Crew Disclaimer

Our Review of Homeschool Copywork!

I am thrilled to let you all know about the newest curriculum we were chosen to review! Read on to see what we thought of Homeschool Copywork!
Homeschool Copywork Review
Our family was given a Lifetime Membership to Homeschool Copywork! I can't say how thrilled I was to be given this opportunity! This is an online based copywork program that offers copywork materials from early elementary through high school. Our family chose to use these copywork pages with our 9yr old dyslexic daughter.

After doing a great deal of research on the topic of dyslexia I found that copywork was strongly recommended. By doing copywork the child learns proper letter formation, punctuation, spelling, spacing, and grammar. All things that are difficult for dyslexic children to learn. We are also working on altering our daughters pencil grip due to some wrist pain when writing.  With this in mind we assign copywork to be completed everyday as part of our school day.

Some experts also recommend teaching dyslexic children cursive before printing. We figured we had nothing to lose at this point so we made the jump to cursive copywork. I loved that the Homeschool Copywork website had options for both cursive and printing. They also offer a variety of copywork topics. The topics range from Bible versus to Jane Austen. There was really a little bit of everything available.

We chose to start with quotes by Charlotte Bronte. I loved that these copywork pages began with brief biography of Charlotte Bronte and had some optional additional activities included.

Our daughter absolutely loved getting to practice her cursive handwriting and I loved the wide variety of materials offered.

The range of materials offered is staggering!

Some examples include:
William H. Taft Inaugural Address
Vincent Van Gogh Artist Study
Autumn in the Garden
Franz Liszt Quotes
Star Spangled Banner
Character Building

I can't say enough great things about these copywork units! I don't know about you but I get tired of working on the same type of material day after day. It is nice to have some variety especially for children who have difficulty focusing for long periods of time!  

I am sure we will get a great deal of use out of this copywork website in the future. I am already planning to print out some of the early elementary school copywork materials for our 6yr old twins to work on. I am sure they will love these My Animal Alphabet copywork materials.

This book for younger children is beyond adorable! Each page has a new animal alphabet copywork sentence with corresponding coloring activity. Some examples include "A is for Alligator" and "B is for Bird". Once all 26 pages are filled out the child then has their own little animal alphabet booklet! How cute is that?!

Copywork is an essential method of writing practice in our family and I am in love with this site! Want to know what the other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about Homeschool Copywork's materials? Click HERE to find out!

Homeschool Copywork Review
Crew Disclaimer

The $400 Rabbit

In our family Ralph the Rabbit has a special place in our hearts. She has been with us the longest and is generally speaking the easiest pet we have ever owned.

During the last wind storm her outside hutch was destroyed. We are very thankful that she was not in the hutch at the time. With the impending storm we had brought her inside. Good thing we did! Her hutch was shattered when we went out the next morning.

We knew she needed her outside hutch repaired but what was left was hardly functional. We decided to salvage what we could and build her a new hutch.

I based her new hutch off of the design from her old one. I was able to salvage the roof and the floor from the old hutch so that gave me a jumping off point.

Here is the completed hutch!

You can see that inside the hutch she has two "rooms". One public with a wire floor and one private with a closed floor. We place her hay in the private room to allow her a place to nest and relax. This is also a great place for her to keep warm in the winter. Having the closed floor has to be easier on her little feet. I have to say I am not a fan of the wire floors. While easier for cleaning they just seem very hard on the animal.

I have found that I am pretty "anti-hutch". Rabbits are meant to be moving and exercising throughout the day. Keeping them locked in little boxes just upsets me. Ralph was however adopted from another family that no longer wanted her and has always been a "boxed rabbit". In an effort to make her life a little more fun we decided to build her a giant new run as well.

This is simply some 2x4s, rabbit wire, and some plastic roof sheets. The finished product is a 4ft by 6ft "box" with an open bottom.

Ralph is able to hop around to her hearts content. She has lots of fresh grass and dandelions to eat. I even think there is some talk of a bunny obstacle course in the future.  When the grass in this location is eaten down we can simply move the run to a new location.

My next step is to install a burrowing system. Rabbits are natural burrowers. I plan to take advantage of this fact and install a tunnel system between her runs and her hutch. I have all the materials, just need the time and energy to hook it all up!

As you can tell Ralph is quite the spoiled bunny. We joke that she is our $400 rabbit. After all of these building projects that might just be true!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Our Chinese Unit

We were excited to start our Chinese unit this week if for no other reason than we really like Chinese food!

Our read aloud for this unit was a bit untraditional. We chose to read James Patterson's Treasure Hunters: Secret of the Forbidden City. Now hear me out on this one! We fell in love with this book series last year. The storyline follows 4 homeschooled children on the search for their parents...who just happen to be CIA and archeologists. The series travels across the globe as the children look for their parents and discover priceless artifacts along the way. While the storyline is completely fictional the geographical and cultural references are accurate. The reader gets to learn about the culture and history of these locations in a fun an exciting way. I made sure that the children understood that this was a work of fiction based on accurate historical and geographical data. We stopped many times throughout the book to research the different artifacts the children were looking for as well as the cities they visited and the customs they shared. I can't say enough good things about this book series. We are looking forward to the fourth one due out this summer!

While working on our unit we completed some very simple crafts. These Chinese lanterns took just a few minutes to complete. The children love them and I have a feeling they will be hanging in our kitchen for quite a while.

We decided to do some painting for this unit and chose the iconic cherry blossom trees. Cute and super simple for the kids to complete. We some how even managed to keep the paint on the paper and not the table. They must be growing up......*sniff*

And of course no study of China would be complete without a Chinese dinner. I admit I totally took the easy way out on this one. We purchased out dumplings and egg rolls from the freezer section of the grocery store! They were not nearly as good as homemade or from a take out location but the price and time commitment were right for me. We also made a simple chicken fried rice to go along with our finger foods.

We enjoyed our study of China and the kids are already looking forward to studying Japan. Sushi anyone?!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016



Our dream is to one day have our own small hobby farm. Thanks to our current lifestyle that is not an option at the moment. We move on average once a year. Transporting 6 children, 1 cat, and 1rabbit is enough. We don't need to add livestock to that equation. We however do miss being able to have the farm experiences in our life.

We learned of a local farm that rents out baby chicks to families for two weeks each spring. We were unable to participate last year since we were on our way to Kentucky to live on the family farm for 6mths. This spring however we were ready to go!

The farmer brought us the baby chicks the week before Easter. They were so tiny and adorable.

Our children were in awe of these little peeping balls of fluff.

Of course you know how it goes with children and new animals. The excitement wore off after a few days and then it was Mama taking care of the chickens for the rest of the time they were here. I didn't mind since I found their development over those 2 weeks to be fascinating. While I have been around chickens before I had never gotten to see them develop their feathers and go through that first two weeks of growth. By the time we were ready to give them back to the farmer they were starting to look more like full grown chickens instead of little balls of fluff.

I am hoping that when it is time for the hubby to retire from the military we will be able to get our own chickens. Being able to rent them was such a treat however! I am so glad we had this opportunity! Now if someone would just rent me a few goats...and maybe a cow or two....

Monday, April 4, 2016

Times Tales Review

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

You remember back in the day when we were learning our multiplication tables? Remember sitting around the table being drilled with flash cards? Guess what? Things are changing for the better! Our family was chosen to review The Trigger Memory Co. multiplication product: Times Tales!

Our family was given a link to the digital content found within the Times Tales bundle. We were able to download the content onto our windows based laptop and had no issues accessing the files or loading the content. Wanna see what we were given? Check it out!

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
Our digital download included the lessons covering the upper multiplication tables, the worksheets and all the accompanying materials!

So what exactly is Times Tales? It is a very cute memory based program to help your child learn the upper multiplication tables. We chose to use this program with our 9 yr old daughter. She is currently learning her multiplication tables and could definitely need some help remembering the higher tables.

I don't know about you but I hated learning my multiplication tables as a child. It was boring and I could just never manage to remember the 6s, 7s, and 8s. I still have trouble with them to this day! You know the table I can remember without even thinking about it? My 9s because my grandmother taught me a cool trick for those.

That is the concept behind this program. Learning a trick for each and every upper multiplication problem. The program assigns a character to each number and then a story to go along with each problem. They then take the child through each problem once to learn the story behind the numbers.

For example using the problem 3x4. The 3 is a butterfly and the 4 is a chair. For the story there are 3 butterflies that land on 4 chairs. How many butterflies are there? 12 of course.

After going through the story once with the child the program then goes back and explains how the story works for solving a multiplication problem. The child then completes worksheets with the same butterfly 3 and chair 4 to cement the story into their memory. From that point on when they see 3x4 they automatically think, "butterfly and chair....12".

I think it is cute and non-threatening way to help the children learn their multiplication facts. I am not a "drill and kill" type parent. I hate sitting there using flash cards just as much as the kids do. If watching a video a few times per week and completing some worksheets is going to help cement her multiplication facts I am all for it!

Want to know what the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of Trigger Memory Co. and the Times Tales program? Come on over and check it out!

Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Our India Unit

After taking 2 units off from crafts and activities we are back at it. This week we are studying India!

We chose to read Who Was Mother Teresa as our read aloud for the unit. I was quite proud of myself for making it through the book and only burst into tears once! That is pretty good for me. Especially on the topic of abused or neglected children.

Our craft for this week included a wall hanging of "lucky" elephants. We found a printable elephant outline online and used it as a template to cut out our elephants. We then stapled them to a piece of yarn and used a thumb tack to attach them to the wall.

Our second craft for the week included the girls handprints. We needed a handprint craft to complete our All About Me badge for Frontier girls so we killed two birds with one stone with this craft.  Our oldest daughter chose to make a handprint peacock. Our younger daughter was fascinated with henna artwork and chose to draw her own artwork on her handprint.

We learned a great deal during our India Unit! So much so that we earned our India Culture badge for Frontier girls as well. I am loving that we can use the Frontier girl badges as an encouragement for the girls school work. You can definitely tell that there are a lot of homeschooling parents writing the badge requirements!

What crafts did your family complete for your India Unit? Let's hear them!


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