Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!!!

May your showers be short
Your lunch organic without pesticides
And your day be bright!!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Artistic Pursuits - Elementary 4-5, Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition Review

Art can be so many things.  It can help a person express their personality.  It can tell a story.  It can be used for advertising.  Art is really all around us.  Lydia loves to work on art projects and enjoys drawing also.  She has construction paper art down, but she needs help in the area of drawing and adding details.  So we were pretty excited to get a chance to try out Elementary 4-5, Book 1 The Elements of Art and Composition ($47.95) from Artistic Pursuits

Elementary 4-5, Book 1 The Elements of Art and Composition (Grades 4 -5) helps to direct students to draw more realistic drawings.  The learn how to add texture to their art and details such as shading.  It teaches how to add more depth, instead of just drawing circles.  Elementary 4-5, Book 1 The Elements of Art and Composition provides instruction on 68 drawings for your student.  And all the drawings will be their own works of art.

Students can work independently to learn the basic elements of drawing.  They work on projects taht show how to use space, lines and shape to create their drawings.  Lessons are also given in how to add details and show depth.  The lessons are not only shown through simple drawings/illustrations in the book, but they also are shown beautiful works from the masters to find the elements in and see how they were used by those art experts.  

Lessons are also not long.  There is a short amount of reading and then lots of fun drawing.  Lessons that lean heavily in the reading area are not a favorite of Lydia (or most kids), so that has helped out a lot with using this program.

The materials for Elementary 4-5, Book 1 The Elements of Art and Composition are simple.  Drawing pencils, good colored pencils, sketching pad, scratch art paper and scratching pencil, and wide tipped black marker is all that is needed.  So I have really enjoyed the limit of supplies that are wonderful when we homeschool on the road.

Like I mentioned earlier, students can work independently.  You can see below that details and steps are laid out for students to follow.

Explanations and examples are given with each project.  Projects are assigned and it also lists the supplies that the student would need to use.

We are having fun!!!  Lydia has been doing two lessons a week currently.  We changed up a couple of the assignments because of the trip we were on.  

She has a thing for owls.  She chose to draw one of her toy owls.  She didn't need to add much detail to this project.  She was working on using the space wisely on her page.

 This was a little more difficult.  She was drawing green Peeps.  She is working on spacing also.

 She was trying to add small details.

 This one was the most accurate.  She drew her new robot dog.

She is working on drawing a tree outside the hotel room door.  

Lydia is enjoying the Artistic Pursuits Elementary 4-5, Book 1 The Elements of Art and Composition .  Even with her hand tremors, having the examples to see how to add the details to her drawing is helping her.  Since she is considering a career in graphic art the Elementary 4-5, Book 1 The Elements of Art and Composition seems to be the place to get her going.  She can see the difference between basic drawings and adding details that provide a look of texture.  

This is our third book from Artistic Pursuits and we will keep using their program since they are so easy to use. We will probably go through Elementary 4-5, Book 1 The Elements of Art and Composition one more time just to give her extra practice because she does struggle with tremors.  So she can get frustrated quickly.  You can easily reuse their books with all your children, you only need to get more supplies.  No need to spend a ton on expensive art classes when your child can learn at home.  Saves you gas money and travel time also.  

Artistic Pursuits provided several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with copies of their various art programs.  If you have younger or older students, be sure to take a few moments to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to see how the other books worked in their homes.  

ARTistic Pursuits Review
Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Week 46 - The One Week We Had Vacation

So believe it or not, we took a vacation.  No we didn't go anywhere exotic.  We were at Home....yep, just at home.  We spent the week cleaning out our basement and garage area.  The front office where Joe works when he is home was in desperate need of help also.  Cases and cases of stuff has been taken from our house.  The sad part....there is still a ton to declutter.  I come from a long line of packrats, so I admit I need help.  Some things I need to hang on to, others are just taking up space.  So trying hard to simplify, simplify, simplify.

Lydia had two riding lessons this week.  Her first was with the equestrian team that she will be riding with this year.  They restarted the season this week.  And then she had her standard lesson.  She helped out a little at the stables too by cleaning some tack.

 She's not as nervous about cleaning the hooves.
We finally got Caty back in for a lesson too.  She has been scared since she was thrown off of a horse a couple months ago.  So we haven't pushed her, but kept encouraging her to try again.  Fortunately she did.  So hoping she sticks with it.  I know she enjoys riding, but just have to help her anxiety and memory of falling.

Joey worked on one of his presents from a few weeks ago.  He and his dad put together his Star Wars LEGO AT-TE...he did a great job

I had a histamine reaction this week that took me down energy and health wise for a couple days.  I have to be even more careful for a few weeks because of all the buds/flowers opening.  Spring allergies on top of the histamines in the food sent my body reeling this week.  Sometimes I can sneak a higher histamine food, this week I wasn't able to do that.  I spent most of Thursday trying to work and taking frequent rest breaks.

The kids had med checks.  We had a couple discussions with the doctor about guardianship issues and the new HIPPA laws since Joey is almost 15.  I wanted to make sure we have our bases covered.  There are several realizations that are smacking me in the face with the boys.  In my mine I knew some limitations they would face, but hoping that they would be able to overcome them.  Unfortunately though they may not be able too.  So I am starting to concentrate on what their next school year material will be and what focus will be on.

They also had a 4H meeting this week.  The kids are about half-way through all their projects, some a little further.  They had fun at the meeting.  Caty learned more about chickens and they did a chicken craft.

The others had their regular meeting, and then Brayden suggested freeze tag as the game to play.  All the kids liked that idea.  Even Brayden got in on the fun.

Caty started Young Athletes Soccer this week.  She loves going to soccer.  Lydia is a volunteer/helper for the program.  Both the girls love going.  

Realizing I only have 6 more weeks until the start of the next school year has hit me like a brick.  So I am thinking about what we are going to do while I am cleaning off the bookshelves.  I have TONS and TONS of books and curriculum.  Just need to decide.  The kids may have a week of vacation when we get back so that I can work on planning more.  I am going to do my best to theme out the weeks and plan better than I did this year.

Well we are off to DC again for fun.  One more week and then we will have two weeks at home.

Hope everyone had a wonderful week!!!  See you next Saturday!!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Star Toaster - Orphs of the Woodlands Review

Like many of you, I am always trying to find a book for my son to "want" to read.  He enjoys science fiction graphic novels, but not I struggle getting him to break out of his "comfort zone reading."  Even his video game choices are centered around his love of science fiction robots.  So I was excited to get a chance to review Orphs of the Woodlands Online Educational program from Star Toaster.

Star Toaster wants to make learning fun for kids.  They wanted to create a program that would encourage kids to learn to take advantage of the educational opportunities around them everyday.  They not only wanted an academic program, but also a program that would encourage children to be better people.  The program that came out was Orphs of the Woodlands ($19.99 for a 2 month subscription for up to 3 students). 

Orphs of the Woodlands (Grades 4 and up) is an online reading and educational program that combines several academic and life skills into one location.  It combines a 3 step learning approach:
  • A Reading Adventure
  • An Academic Adventure
  • A Fun Game

Joey has been using Orphs of the Woodlands for a few weeks now.  He is reading the current book which is, "The Treasure of High Tower".   He is really enjoying the story.  There are 15 chapters  in this book.  Joey is not one for reading online ebooks, so he does move a bit slower.  This presented a challenge for him to read the material online.  On the other hand, one really nice example of why ebooks can be wonderful for kids that struggle with comprehension issues is that Orphs of the Woodlands has vocabulary words highlighted and definitions are provided when you click on the word.  

Short videos are also included in the lessons that helped break up the monotony of reading.  They help draw his attention back to what he should be doing.

After you finish a chapter, you get to do "jobs" to earn money.  These are the educational games that help kids practice and learn new skills.  The jobs (or academic skills) cover a wide range of skills that include math, science, literature arts, history and even life skills.
 I never know how Joey will react to online educational programs, so I was waiting to hear that he didn't like it.  But he is having so much fun!!!

There is a sign in for Joey and a sign in for me so that I can see his progress and areas where he needs to improve.  

Joey is really enjoying Orphs of the Woodlands and we plan to continue as he keeps reading the story.  I love programs that combine many subjects together.  He doesn't even realize that he is learning extra.  I can't wait until the next book is available.  

The one thing that Joey gets frustrated with is that he has to read a full chapter in order to start his next set of jobs.  I wish the chapters were broken into small sections or split the amount of jobs and every so many pages there were more jobs for him to do.  

Something that could be added that would be awesome is having the book read to the student.  I know this is for older students, but for kids with disabilities and reading delays, they may struggle a bit to read these chapters.  Audio reading would be wonderful to help them out.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out Orphs of the Woodlands from Star Toaster.  Stop by the blog and see how they used Orphs of the Woodlands in their homes.
Star Toaster Review
Crew Disclaimer




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Memoria Press - First Start Reading Review

Teaching a child with a visual perception delay to read is a long and frustrating process for both the parent and child.  The parent get frustrated because the child cannot remember letter sounds which means they cannot put together the letter sounds to make their words.  I am struggling with this right now with Caty.  She cannot remember her letter sounds and it is making her so frustrated.  So we were excited to get a chance to review First Start Reading from Memoria Press.

First Start Reading ($42.95) was created for students in Preschool through 1st grade (depending on if you have a struggling reader).   It combines those crucial early handwriting skills with a traditional vowel-consonant approach reading program.   

When you buy the First Start Reading program, you receive four workbooks and a teachers guide.  Normally I don't purchase Teacher Guides.  I always just figure that I will pull it off somehow and save the money.  But I really did enjoy the Guide that comes with this set.  It lists out the full lesson and scripts it for me really well.  It made pre-planning each lesson super easy.  

You can see how the lesson is made to be brief, but have an impact on the child.  Each lesson has the "less is more" approach, which is a bonus for short-attention spans.  We even did fun things when it came to listening for sounds.  We would do stand up/sit down.  Jump for sounds, and clap for sounds.  It helped her focus on listening for the sounds in the words.

As you can see, the handwriting is included in each lesson.  This is from Book 1.  Each lesson introduces sounds, and shows the students how to take those sounds and make them into words.  Every lesson continues to build on top of the previous lesson.  

I like that the handwriting has traceable letters for the kids in the beginning. Caty struggles with letter formation.  So this helped her form letters of the words that she is learning to read.  

Many of the lessons and stories have areas for the kids to draw, which also helps with their fine motor skills.   But it also helped Caty to work on early comprehension skills.

You start out in Book A and work your way through lessons.  You are working for mastery, so if you child is still struggling you will want to spend extra time on the lesson they are struggling with.  In lessons where she does not need extra help, there was a couple lessons where she was able to do 2 lessons a day.  In lessons where she is struggling we are able to do some extra work.  There are four books in the First Start Reading series.  So depending on your student's abilities, this is a full year program.  

Lessons are short and last about 15 minutes for each one.  So this also helps for those with short attention spans (like Caty).   There is not a ton of extra books that you need to keep track of either.  Some reading programs have several early reader books that you must keep track of.  With First Start Reading, the sentences and stories that they read are in each lesson.  When we are traveling, this really helps out on the need to keep cut back on the amount of books that we carry.  So First Start Reading would also be great for those who are schooling on the road.

First Start Reading seems to be helping Caty with her reading struggles, because of the approach.  If you have a child that is struggling with a visual perception delay, I would recommend checking out First Start Reading for them.  It is not a miracle, and we are working on mastery very slowly.  But Caty has not gotten as frustrated using First Start Reading like she has with other programs.  So we will continue to chug along and see where this takes us.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out First Start Reading and New American Cursive from Memoria Press.  See how they used these products in their homes and how they worked for their families.  You can read them by visiting the blog in the link below.

Memoria Press Review

Crew Disclaimer


Monday, April 13, 2015

Homeschool Travels - Visiting the Minuteman Missile Facility

On our recent trip to Mount Rushmore, we came across a very interesting National Park to visit.

There is a Welcome Center that explains the Nuclear arms program as well as the different types of missiles that our government has in storage.

The Minuteman Missile was an iconic weapon in the American nuclear arsenal.  It held the power to destroy civilization, but acted as a nuclear deterrent which maintained peace and prevented war.

It's not a big area, but it's interactive and they are working at expanding the displays.

There is history on the Cold War also.

At the Welcome Center you can get tickets to tour the Delta-01 launch facility where the soldiers would live while serving.

This truck is what they would drive between missiles.  If there was a warning of any sort, they had to check it out.  This all-terrain vehicle helped them get where they needed to be.
The black grill on the right side of this picture is where they would burn orders and numbers that needed to be destroyed.

This is really the building where soldiers lived for months at a time.

It was small quarters in some areas depending on your rank.
But still comfortable.
Gotta have food...

The men who served at this location.
Gate area for the guards.

Elevator down to the bunker.
Vault door.
This is the bunker that we went to looks like.  This is a picture at installation.  No one, I mean no one except two personnel were allowed in there during shifts.  They rotated 4 specially trained soldiers in the pod.  If war happened, the door above would shut and only the two personnel on duty stayed in there.

How thick the wall is...
It is held in place by shock absorber

They had everything they needed down here.

The escape hatch they would dig out of after so many months if war occurred.

Their uniforms.  They had everything they needed for an extended period of time if they were to be locked in during a war.

How far below the ground we were.
The ones above ground had basketball and other activities to keep them occupied.

You can also visit a decommissioned missile at another sight near the base.

It was hard to get a good picture because of sun glare.

This was a very interesting side trip.  I highly recommend visiting if you are in the South Dakota area.  Tickets are limited for the Base tour each day, but there is no charge.  You need to visit the Welcome Center first, and get your tickets there.