Lighting a Fire with History

When it comes to teaching our children, what is the goal? Is it just to learn facts, pass a test, and move on to the next subject? If that is all there is to it, I believe we’ve missed the mark. Williams Yeats said, “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” I believe that this accurately describes one of my goals in homeschooling. I desire to give my children a love for learning. I want to spark their interest in education.

When it comes to teaching History, I have to be very careful to not weary them with boring names, dates, and facts. I want them excited about learning from the past. Fortunately, we are not limited to only textbooks. There are tons of resources available for parents who want to light a fire of interest in their children.

Roman Town, created by Dig It Games, is one way to spice up ancient history lessons. Our family was blessed to be able to review this product. Everyone has gotten involved in this game, even my husband. It gives the user a firsthand look into Roman life. With Roman Town you explore Fossura, which was destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. During the archaeological dig you can find artifacts such as pottery, bones, coins, and paintings. Then you can play games, solve mysteries, and learn all about daily life centuries ago.

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Here are some of the features listed on their website.

  •  Immersive, interactive learning environment
  • Gameplay focuses on development of analytical thinking and team building
  • Puzzles encourage problem solving
  • Authentic artifacts and realistic backgrounds
  • Accurate information about Roman Life and Roman history
  • Encompasses the full excavation experience from start to finish
  • Introduces Archaeology in a fun, manageable package
  • Fun for the whole family

Head over to Dig It Games and check out this great educational game. The purchase price is $39.95 but if you use the coupon code TOS2011 before February 21, 2011 you can get 20% off the 2010 price of $24.95. (You end up paying just under $20.)

To see what others are saying click here.

Disclaimer: As a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew, I received Roman Town Download in exchange for an honest product review. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

I love this Bible curriculum!

When it comes to what subject holds the highest priority with this Christian homeschooling family, none can compete with the Bible.  Long ago, my husband and I determined that Christ would be preeminent in not only our individual lives and our family structure but also in the education of our children.  To know God and to learn from His Word is the number one goal of home discipleship.  Second to that would be to get a solid, biblical education.  The reason, however, might surprise some.  It is not so that my children will be successful in life.  The reason we aspire to attain a good education for my children is so that God receives glory in all that we do, to be a living testimony of Christ, and to further the kingdom of God through our work here on earth.

As a reviewer, I am perhaps the hardest on Bible Curriculums.  The reason is because you are dealing with the precious Word of God.  To take that carelessly or out of context in my mind is a serious matter that should not be treated lightly.  I have high expectations for those who will attempt to expound on the Word of God.

I was given the opportunity to review a high school Bible curriculum by Positive Action for Christ called The Life of Christ from the Gospel of John.  From the moment I saw it, I loved this product!  I received a Teacher’s manual that included teaching strategies, background information, quizzes, test, transparencies disk, and other supplemental material.  I also received a beautifully illustrated, full color student book with activities, lessons, and thought provoking study questions. 

The Life of Christ puts the reader in Israel with Jesus during the years AD 29-32.  You learn about customs, geography, and dates.  “We point out the seasons of the year, the time of day, and even the weather to help the students relive those exciting days when Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, walked the earth and ministered to the people in Israel,” (taken from the teacher’s forward).  All of this makes the story of Jesus alive in the hearts and minds of the students.  Going through this study you cannot help but relate to Christ as a visible and personal Saviour.  It is clear that Positive Action for Christ desires to present the Lord as more than a mere historical fact. 

We want the students to achieve the following objectives:

  • To see His brilliance
  • To know His compassion
  • To thrill at His courage and power
  • To weep over His death
  • To rejoice in His resurrection

They sum it up in their mission statement.  Positive Action exists to equip Bible teachers to magnify the majesty of God.  (Christian parents, you are called of God to be your child’s Bible teacher.  The responsibility falls to you, not to a school, homeschool co-op, or even the church.  All of these can be good but they should supplement what you are already teaching in the home.)

As a homeschool curriculum I highly recommend this study.  Positive Action for Christ has online lesson samples for you to download and view. 

They also have Bible curriculum for every age group which is something this family will be looking into when we complete The Life of Christ.  One of the beauties of homeschooling is the versatility. While this curriculum targets 9-12 grades it can easily be adapted to use as a family devotional.

To see what others are saying about The Life of Christ click here.

Disclaimer:  As a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew, I received the Life Of Christ in exchange for an honest product review.   I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

ALEKS REVIEW

It is amazing how far technology has come in just a few years.  Not too long ago, if a homeschooling parent was struggling to teach a subject to their children the only option was an outside tutor.  Getting a tutor for your child does have its advantages.  However, it can be expensive and you are locked into a limited amount of study time with a tutor.  But now, technology is such in that help can come in many forms.

This past month I reviewed ALEKS as part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew.  ALEKS stands for Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces.  It is a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system.  Through an assessment test, the program determines exactly what a student knows and doesn’t know in a math course.  It then offers individualized instruction that meets the student at his learning level.  So in other words, ALEKS is like a personal tutor but with so much more.

ALEKS offers comprehensive courses from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus.  Because all you need is a computer with internet access, it is a very flexible solution for busy students.

Here is what the ALEKS website says:

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • No Textbook Required
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
  • Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
  • Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress 
  • Unlimited Online Access – PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables – Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction

I registered Aaron (8th grade) and Abigail (6th) grade for ALEKS.  Here is how it worked.  Each child took an assessment test that lasted about an hour.  ALEKS avoids multiple-choice questions and instead uses input tools that mimic what would be done with paper and pencil.  Each test asked around 30 questions.  When the test is complete, ALEKS has developed a precise picture of their knowledge of the course.  We know what topics each child has mastered and which ones have not yet been mastered.   Each child’s knowledge is represented by a multicolor pie chart.  The light areas show the topics that need to be learned with the dark areas representing what is already mastered.

This is where the learning comes in.  Each time the child logs on; they are offered a choice of topics they are ready to learn.  They are then given practice problems that teach each topic.  As new principles are learned the dark areas on the pie chart begin to fill up.  This is encouraging for the students to see how much they are learning. The progress reports are encouraging for the parent.  For the younger grades they offer QuickTables.  It is a mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.  Abigail enjoyed using it as well as the fun games that come with it.

While I really like ALEKS, we will not continue it this year.  However, I can see purchasing it in the future as the children get older and math becomes harder to teach.  It could be very valuable those last few years of high school.  The online program is $19.95 per student per month.  They also offer family discounts on their website.
 

 

If you are interested in ALEKS check out their site for a free trial. 

To learn what others are saying about ALEKS click here.

 

 Disclaimer:  As a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew, I received a trail version of ALEKS in exchange for an honest product review.   I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

It’s Snowing In Our Living Room

I woke up at 4:15 this morning unable to sleep.  So I fixed a cup of hot chocolate and headed to the living room to sit in my favorite recliner.  As I sat in the quiet, I looked up and saw all of the snowflakes hanging from the ceiling. They were dancing and twirling in a peaceful, serene way.  The sight was a beautiful reminder of childhood dreams, like snow covered Christmas mornings or mom making snow ice cream.  For just a few moments I was brought back to days of waking up to see a white blanket of snow covering our yard, building snowmen, and sledding with my brother.

Living in south Mississippi, it is rare for my children to see a lot of snow.  And while they do not get to experience all that I did as a child, they do get to create memories of their own.  Memories like making snowflakes to hang in our living room.  Abigail and Andrew made them for our Christmas party for the church on Friday night.  They are beautiful and easy to make.  We went online and printed out the patterns.  All you need are some scissors and hands to help.  In a matter of minutes you can have snow in your living room as well.

I’ve shared before that I do not believe in Christmas decorations that have no meaning.  I do not put things in my house just because they are seasonal.  There is purpose behind it all.  So, as the children and I made snowflakes we talked about how God has made each one unique.  No two snowflakes are alike.  The Creator has designed each one to be special.  Likewise, God has made each one of us unique.  No two humans are alike.  We are all created special and the Lord has a plan for each of our lives.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! (Psa 139:14-17)

We serve an amazing God!  Thank you Lord for snowflakes and how all of creation reminds us of Your greateness!

The Master Ruler

Being able to properly measure something is a skill that our children will use throughout life.  Due to his love for wood working, my oldest son has learned the value of being able to accurately measure.  After all, if you measure wrong you will waste a piece of wood.  Ask a seamstress how important it is to measure precisely.   

I was recently sent the Master Ruler by Master Innovations, Inc. as a product review.  The Master Ruler is several rulers in one!  I was sent a standard and metric ruler ($9.95 each) as well as their Marvels of Measures! Poster ($10.00), and a student workbook ($14.95). 

Since Aaron and Abigail have mastered measuring, I let Abigail oversee her younger brother, Andrew use it.  When measuring, it is very easy to get confused with all the lines on a ruler.  What I like about The Master Ruler is that it takes out the guess work and builds confidence into the children.  The ruler has separate layers for each fraction of measurement with each fraction having its own color.  I love how it simplifies measuring.

Master Innovations, Inc. also has The Master Clock, The Master Angle, and The Master Fractions.  You can learn more from their website here

To see what others are saying about Master Innovations, Inc. click here.

 Disclaimer:  As a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew, I received The Master Ruler set free of charge in exchange for an honest product review.   I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

 

What’s the “matter”?

What’s the matter, homeschooling mother?  Are you like me?  Does the thought of teaching science to your children scare you?  The sciences in general have a reputation of being an almost out-of-reach specialty that is only for a few people.  So it’s understandably if words and phrases like: physics, atoms, electrons, extranuclear region, berkelium, gravitational force, electromagnetic spectrum, and the laws of thermodynamics concern you some.

Maybe you love teaching science.  Maybe you excel in it, therefore so do your children.  But, for the rest of us what do we do?  The reality is that science does not have to be hard.  After all, true science is simply getting to know God and understanding and appreciating His power and greatness.  What Christian mother doesn’t want to teach that to her children?

Not too long ago, I received the Christian Kids Explore Physics book from Bright Ideas Press to review with my children.  The book contains 30 weekly lessons with step by step lesson activities, coloring pages, fun experiments, Review It questions, and unit quizzes.

The children and I have both really enjoyed studying physics.  The scientific terminology is explained in simple, easy to understand terms.  For example:

Physics – The study of matter and energy in great detail

Matter – Things that we can see or touch, have weight, and take up space

Energy – The capacity to do work

Because of the simplicity of each lesson all my children, regardless of age, can grasp the scientific facts with confidence and assurance.  However, there is enough information in each lesson for continued learning if you choose.  That is one of the reasons I like this curriculum.  It is easily adapted.  Another reason I like this curriculum is because of the authors statements in the introduction.

“The important thing to keep in mind is that God is at the center of everything – including the study of physics.”

Last week while learning about the lithium atom we made atomic cookies.  All you need are three protons, four neutrons, and three electrons.  Amazingly enough, cookie dough and M&M’s work wonderfully well! 

 

Andrew’s lithium adom model wasn’t edible but he still had fun making it.

You can purchase Christian Kids Explore Physics for $34.95 for their website.  To see what others are saying about Bright Ideas Press and their products click here.

Disclaimer:  As a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew, I received the Christian Kids Explore Pysics in exchange for an honest product review.   I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Tempus Fugit

I have never met a person who at the end of their life said, “I sure wish I had not wasted my life by spending so much time with my family.”  Sadly, when I speak with people the antithesis is always voiced.  With regret in their voices I hear phrases like,

  • “I’ve spent my entire life focusing on my work.  Now that work is gone so is my family.” 
  • “I’ve neglected my wife and children all these years.”
  • “We never did make time for that family vacation.”
  • “I was always too busy to tell my parents just how much I loved them, now it’s too late.”
  • “Life was hectic.  I never took the time to stop and talk with my children.  Now they won’t talk to me.”

Tempus Fugit.  In Latin it means, time flies.  Oh, how true it is.  Just yesterday I was holding my beloved’s hand and saying, “I do and I will till death do us part.”  Now, nearly 18 years and three children later I ask myself, where has the time gone? It seems as though just yesterday I was holding my first born in my arms, singing sweet songs, and rocking him to sleep.  Now, 14 years later and towering at 6 feet tall, he could rock me.  Where did the time go?  Just yesterday I was opening that first box of homeschool books as we began our journey to home educate our children.  Now, the path is well worn and I’m looking back over years of discipleship with my children.  There are just a few years left.  Again, where has the time gone?  And I know in my heart that years from now I will be looking back at even this season in my life and asking the all too familiar question of where did the time go?

The Lord answers our question.  In Psalms we are told why time files so quickly.  “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass,” Psalm 102:11.  Life is short.  Therefore, I should be as the Psalmist and “remember how short my time is,”(Psalm 89:47).  In the book of James we are reminded again just how short life is.  “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away, (James 4:14).

When my children were younger, I would teach them during science about the three stages of water – liquid, solid, and gas.  We would put a cup of water in the freezer so it could freeze then we would put a cup of water on the stove to watch it evaporate.  As we watched the steam rise one reoccurring thought was that it vanishes so quickly.  And while that is true, when steam (vapour) is channeled properly it can be put to great work.  Consider the steam engine.    Steam engines were the first widespread engine type to be used.  They were the foundation of the industrial revolution.  They powered all early locomotives, steam boats, and factories.  Even today we see that steam is one of the most widely used commodities for conveying heat energy.  Because water is plentiful and inexpensive, steam is efficient and economic to generate. 

Now consider this.  Our lives are but a vapor.  They appear for a little while and then vanish away.  Therefore, our lives can be wasted and allowed to drift aimlessly like a vapor in the air until they are gone or, if allowed to, they can be channeled properly by the Holy Spirit and accomplish great things for God while here on earth.  

So, in reply to tempus fugit I will say to the Lord as the Psalmist did to, “teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom,” Psalm 90:12.  In answer to the question of where time has gone, I will say that it’s gone to afternoons of walking hand in hand with my husband.  It’s gone to playing a board game with my children.  It’s gone to holding my children on my lap and reading story after story.  It’s gone to baking cookies with my daughter to take to a lonely widow.  It’s gone to hours and hours of teaching my children math, science, and history.  It’s gone to daily Bible instruction as we all learn together the ways of God more perfectly.  It’s gone to smiling, laughing, and giggling with my family.  It’s gone to singing old hymns around the piano.  And so much more.

But, time has also been given to days of sadness, frustration, anger, and worry.  Time has gone to fighting and an unforgiving heart.  Time has been wasted on frivolous actions that will never matter in eternity.  Time has been given over to selfishness more times than I care to count.  Time has been wasted.  Life is short and we cannot afford to waste our life.  Lord, help me to invest my life in those things that are eternal, like my relationship with You and with others.  Help me to apply my heart to wisdom and teach me to number my days.

Corps of Re-Discovery

What do you get when you take two adventurous boys, some paint, knives, guns, flashlights, and industrious imaginations?  If you were here at our house you would get an ambush.  As I write this, my boys are laying in wait for their father to come home.  I am not sure what they will do with him when they catch him but nonetheless he will receive a surprise attack.

We encourage our children to be imaginative.  When my boys play together it fosters a healthy relationship between brothers.  It also builds into them a spirited desire to be men.  It is because when they play they are winning wars, saving princesses, fighting enemies, rescuing the helpless, doing mighty deeds, and becoming heroes.  In addition, allowing my children to have active imaginations makes it a lot easier in teaching history.  For example, when my boys pretend to be frontiersmen, the account of Lewis and Clark turns from boring historical facts into real, authentic stories lived out in their minds.   This is why I am excited about my discovery of The Corps of Re-Discovery. 

The Corps of Discovery was the name Thomas Jefferson gave to Lewis and Clark’s party as he commissioned them to find an east-west water passage to the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago.  The Corps of Re-Discovery is the name of a home-based family business who wants to help inspire imaginations and create memories.  They offer project kits to enrich studies of American Indians, Frontiersmen and Pioneer Americans so children can “re-discover” America. 

I was given an opportunity to review one of their products, a frontiersmen coin pouch.  Unfortunately, I was only given one to review.  Therefore, we had to come up with a creative solution to “who gets the pouch.”  Aaron decided that if he could make it then Andrew could take it.  The kit was easy to understand and simple to complete, taking just a few minutes.  In fact, after starting it Aaron went ahead and let his younger brother finish it.  Priced at just $4.95 it was not only fun but economical. When a child makes his own toy from the past he easily becomes excited about this era of American History.

When you visit their website you will see that they have everything an American Indian needs from throwing tomahawks, to arrow kits, to moccasin kits.  Perhaps your children like to pretend to be pioneers or colonials.  They will enjoy a quill feather pen kit, a weaving loom, or a cornhusk doll kit.  In addition to the coin pouch, your frontiersmen might enjoy the powder horn or a coonskin hat.  However your children like to play they will find something they love at The Corps of Re-Discovery.   Below is a picture of Andrew and his new coin pouch.

  

Click here to see what others are saying about The Corps of Re-Discovery project kits.

Disclaimer:  As a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew, I received the coin pouch free of charge in exchange for an honest product review.   I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

A Sure Foundation

Did you ever sing as a child the song about the wise man and the foolish man?  I love that song.  “The wise man built his house upon the rocks and the rains came tumbling down…..”  While the song is catchy and fun to sing, there is more to it than that.  It teaches a profound truth of building upon a sure foundation.  For every believer that sure foundation is Jesus Christ and Him alone.  Many try to build their life upon sandy foundations.  But sadly, it is to their detriment.

When it comes to teaching my children, I must remember to build upon that same sure foundation.  That is one of the reasons I love homeschooling.  I am able to choose curriculum that builds upon Truth.  When I was given the opportunity to review a writing curriculum by Rebecca Celsor, from The Write Foundation, my curiosity was stirred.  

Rebecca began her career in the public school system teaching language arts.  After several years she took her experience and began to apply it to those students who she had the most vested interest in – her own children.  This was the beginning of her homeschooling journey with her three children.  Her journey continued as she began to teach other children creative writing in Christian co-op classes.  As she developed her own curriculum she realized that when it comes to writing, failure is almost always because the basics have NOT been learned.  The Write Foundation takes students back to the basics and lays the foundation needed for success. 

There are three levels in The Write Foundation curriculum.

Level One – Sentence to Paragraph Writing (ages 11-13)

Level Two – Paragraph Writing (ages 12-15)

Level Three – Essay Writing (ages 14-17)

I choose to review Level One with my children.  The goal of level one is for students to become well thought-out and organized writers.  Each lesson can be used for reluctant and average writers building confidence in them.  But it is also creative enough to be used for children who excel in writing.  Below is a description of Level One from their website.

  • Lesson plans formatted in an easy-to-follow system 
  • Reinforces the construction of a basic sentence 
  • Improves sentence structure with basic grammar and figures of speech 
  • Teaches the organizational process of  brainstorming, outlining, rough draft and editing. 
  • Quickly develops more interesting, informative sentences 
  • Steps to writing the basic paragraph 
  • Progress to writing two-paragraph papers 
  • Guidelines, checklists and correct structure 
  • Creative poetry writing 
  • 30 lessons with lesson plans for either a one- or two-year format

The entire Sentence to Paragraph Writing Curriculum for teacher and student includes a Spiral-bound Teacher Instruction Manuals with Lesson Plans, One set notebook-ready printed Worksheets (200 single-sided pages), One CD with additional resources.  The curriculum is $100.  The website does offer options for ordering the manuals, worksheets and CD individually as well. 

 I have modified this curriculum somewhat to fit our needs (isn’t that another beauty of homeschooling?) but overall we have all enjoyed the simple, easy to understand lessons.  We will continue to use this in our home throughout the semester.   

To learn more about The Write Foundation visit their website.  You can click here to see what others are saying about this product.

 

“He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock,” Luke 6:48.

 

Disclaimer:  As a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew, I received The Write Foundation Level One free of charge in exchange for an honest product review.   I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Student Planners

Moms, how are you coming on your organizational skills this year? 

I’m going to admit right now that I have not always been the most organized person.  But over the years and with much prodding from my dear husband, I have become much more organized in all that I do (from running the house, to my writing, to teaching the children and everything in between).

So this year I started off with great expectations.  At the beginning of the school year I had everything scheduled and organized.  Of course, I must give credit where credit is due and The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner sure has helped in this area.  So I’m off to a good start.  Now comes the challenge of imparting to my children the same organizational skills.  After all, it is important for children to be structured.  It’s important for them to have order.  And as they get older it is even more important that they learn the self discipline it takes to keep them organized.

There are two things I have learned to help my own children with these skills.  First, I have to emulate the behavior for them.  After all, when it comes to children, more is caught than taught.   Secondly, I must provide for them good resources and tools to use.  For example, if I want to teach my children to be early risers then I myself must be an early riser.  Secondly, I should invest in an alarm clock for them (giving them the proper tool). 

To teach my children to be organized I first must be.  Then I need to give them the proper tools or resources.  This is where the Schoolhouse Student Planner comes in.  I received the Middle School (7-8 grade) planner from TOS in exchange for an honest review.  It is 278 pages of informative articles, helpful calendars, valuable forms, and so much more.  In fact, there really is too much to list but below are a few examples.

  • To-do lists (today, tomorrow, next week . . .)
  • Audio/Visual log
  • Log sheet
  • Marking period planners
  • Wish list (stuff to buy later)
  • Science lab sheets (use to gather all the supplies and record the experiment too)
  • General book reports
  • Early elementary book reports (with room for pictures!)
  • Chore charts (includes tasks and pictures for primary and secondary grades)
  • Loaned and borrowed lists (no more lost books, CDs, DVDs . . .)
  • Important phone numbers and contacts (never forget a phone number again)
  • Address book (from A–Z)
  • Family tree
  • Community service record (college and scholarship applications may require this information)
  • Dates to remember (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, important events)
  • Website login/password reference (handy!)

In addition, there are those much-needed, must-know lists for those hard to remember facts and figures:

  • Thirteen colonies
  • Multiplication table
  • Branches of government
  • Planets
  • Measurement conversions
  • Elements
  • Capitals of states or countries
  • Timelines
  • Kitchen and measurement conversions
  • And more!

The student planners complement the Schoolhouse Planners in a very nice way but can also stand alone.   At just $19 they are affordable as well.   I must say that our family is well on our way to having a smooth, well-run household and a very productive year!   Visit the store to learn more information.

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. (Psa 25:4)