Educational Activity Notebooks

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Bookworm Beauty has always loved activity books, of any kind. When she was still in the public school system, Grandma would take her to the store at the beginning of summer to buy her a BrainQuest book for a summer bridge activity book and she would lug that one-plus-inch book around everywhere we went. All of this to say that I was not in any way surprised by her reaction when we received the ability to review the USA Activity Bundle by The Crafty Classroom.

For days, Bookworm Beauty asked me if we had received the download links for the product. She was eager to have something fun to lug around and work on through the summer time. Her good morning hugs quickly turned to a happy squeeze when I was able to hand her the awaited binder.

To start, The Crafty Classroom is a fantastic online resource shop. One visit to their website is all you need to turn a gray sky into rainbows. Ok, so that will not literally happen, but I do find myself in a better mood when I visit. It is welcoming and everything is bright and cheery. If it were a physical store, it would be somewhere that my kids would want to visit again and again. They offer fun and fabulous resources for a wide array of homeschool subjects as well as art tutorials, free printables and more. The bottom line is that anyone that homeschools, or just has young children around, should have this site bookmarked.

We received three links as part of the USA Activity Bundle, a $15 value. The bundle includes three activity books:U.S.A. State by State Activity Notebook,U.S.A. State Bird Art Cards, and U.S.A. 50 State Mazes. I took one look at them and decided that I did not want three books for Bookworm Beauty, but rather a single and organized book. I started by printing the State-By-State pages single-sided and put them back into the printer to print the corresponding state mazes on the back side. I then printed the state birds out separately. I did not realize, before printing these out that there are many states that have a common state bird with other states. I guess I got to learn something new with this product as well! Once everything was printed, it was only a matter of minutes for me to divide the proper state – now double sided worksheets – into groups corresponding with each bird. I had to battle with my own OCD traits to do this as there was no longer an alphabetical order to the mazes and state info but rather a seemingly random grouping. It does make it difficult to flip through and find a particular state, but I got over it quickly. All of the pages received a three-hole-punch and was placed into a binder. The only hiccup I had was when I was printing out the mazes and noticed that there was not a maze for Wyoming. I quickly emailed Valerie McClintick at the Crafty Classroom and shortly thereafter I noticed that the link had been updated and included Wyoming.

Bookworm Beauty has had fun looking up various state facts for each state in our union. She, of course, thinks that the state-shaped mazes are simple and fun and the birds are fascinating. For me, I like that she has do a little bit of research to look up the various facts for each state when completing the State-By-State pages, such as the state flower, which number it is in the union, their nickname and state abbreviation. She also gets to color their state flag, locate the state in a US map and then locate it’s Capital, Rivers, Lakes and Mountains. Lastly, there is a section on each page that allows the child to write out some facts & notes on the state. I had to chuckle when writing this review and seeing that although she has worked on a lot of the states, Colorado is the only one that appears to be completed and the facts & notes lists nothing more than “I live here!” Well, I guess that is a fact.

This has been a fun product and one that I believe every family should pick up at some point. It would be a fantastic addition to a road trip. A few years ago, we took a trip to Hawaii. We rode the Amtrak train from Colorado to Oakland, California and I knew that we had over 30 hours of train time to fill with the kids. We found similar worksheets to these and printed out one for each state that we would pass through: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and of course, Hawaii. It was fun to cover facts for each state and introduce the kids to their current surroundings as we passed through or visited. I can see this particular Activity Bundle serving us for years to come as we prepare for various trips.

If you have not checked them out, go over and visit The Crafty Classroom. We are studying Chemistry this year and they have a fantastic corresponding resource, Periodic Table of the Elements Activity Pack for a mere $5. The purchase was easy and I received an immediate email response verifying the purchase with the link. I had the product printed out within minutes of my finding it on their website and completing the transaction. That was simple.

The Crafty Classroom is bookmarked on my computer and I have a feeling I am going to have to start explaining to Handsome why we have so many transactions with them!

 

 

Oh So Fascinating Chemistry: A Review

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

We have become quite a sciency (yes that’s a homeschool term for us) family over the last few years, and last year in my eagerness, I had ordered a full chemistry program for all three of the kids which included early elementary workbooks The Boy and Sweetness and an upper elementary one for Bookworm Beauty. Unfortunately, we were covering Anatomy and Astronomy last year, leaving little time for Chemistry. As I began planning next year’s studies, I began to be concerned about the program being just a little too elementary for Bookworm Beauty as she enters 7th grade. It was another answer to my prayers to receive an excellent and timely review opportunity; this time it was Fascinating Chemistry by Fascinating Education that came through at the right time.

Fascinating Education was born out of Dr. Sheldon Margulies’ love of science and making science applicable, fun, teachable and real to the average student. I do not normally mention the maker of a program in a review, but I feel that I must this time around. Early on in our review I had a reason to contact the vendor and I received an immediate response by someone from his team that provided some information about Dr. Margulies’ passion for teaching science. It is absolutely worth mentioning because when someone is passionate about what they teach and they keep themselves within an arm’s reach of their customers, you end up with a friend that is sharing educational information with your students, not a vendor marketing their products.

I was initially worried about the age range of Fascinating Chemistry, as it appears as though it is intended for high school. Although Bookworm Beauty is pretty advanced in her abilities, she is still a  12 year old 7th grader. She and I sat through the initial lessons together and discovered that while they are a little advanced, they are not beyond her ability to grasp. She had been overly patient about our lack of fitting Chemistry in to our schedule over the last year, which I finally came to learn was not patience but rather a lack of interest in Chemistry overall.The discussions that we had around Chemistry were really important because part of our reasoning for homeschooling is the ability to allow our kids to have a part in the decisions we make about what to study. I know that she will need to complete a Chemistry course during high school so the biggest question was whether or not she takes a class during 7th grade as well. In the end, we decided that we would work through Fascinating Chemistry for the review period and let her make some decisions about completing the program after. Her reluctance to study Chemistry seems to have waned quite a bit after the pressure was gone.

I felt that it was important that I sit with her and watch the online video tutorials together. I do not usually have to do this with Bookworm Beauty but I did so because I needed to get a feel for the age level of the instruction. Once we logged into the system we were granted access to the course. There is not a student dashboard or a parent dashboard to get familiarized with. It is a simple and straightforward system (how refreshing). We were taken to a landing page where all courses are listed: Fascinating Chemistry, Fascinating Physics, Fascinating Biology, Fascinating Logic of Medicine and Fascinating Chemistry (a pre-course for Biology). After selecting the Fascinating Chemistry course we are taken to a course outline page showing all 19 lessons. For each lesson we have the option of listening to a video tutorial, consisting of slides with a narration by the Dr. himself or reading the text ourselves. Tests are also available for each lesson and can be completed and scored online or printed and administered separately.

I would imagine that most middle school children could handle this program overall, especially since the student has the ability to work entirely at their own pace. The only limitation may be some math  required that might be beyond a middle school level. After tweaking our schedules a bit, we seem to have found an advantageous way to make this product work well for us at this time, which is to use it in conjunction with the elementary science program. For example, Bookworm Beauty is present when the younger kids work on their lesson which is nothing short of reinforcement and we then stream Fascinating Education on our television through our computer, allowing all of them to hear the more advanced lesson instruction. We then take the test together. All in all, they are each receiving reinforcement through each other’s programs. It is going to be a real treat when we begin the labs that are available with Fascinating Chemistry.

To make chemistry even more fun and the learning attainable for my kids, I downloaded a resource from a recent vendor we reviewed, called The Periodic Table of the Elements Activity Pack by The Crafty Classroom. This provided us with flashcards, BINGO board games and other activities to reinforce the learning of the periodic table. The more we can do together as a family, the greater we all learn.

In the end, I have concluded that Fascinating Chemistry is fascinating for us. Although it is intended as a high school course, we will not receive that level of benefit from it at this time, not because of the program but because of Bookworm Beauty’s minimal interest in the subject. I would rather expect her to complete this course in high school when she either has an increased interest or simply needs to complete the course. In the meantime, we will still use it lightheartedly and as a solid instructional supplement to our really basic Chemistry studies. I have to admit though that I am really looking forward to seeing her work through Chemistry in high school and I fully anticipate looking to Fascinating Chemistry to meet that need.

History Activities that Make Learning Fun!

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

I have a love hate not-so-love relationship with our most recent review product,
Time Travelers American History: The American Revolution by Home School in the Woods. Please read this review through to the end as I hope to share as clearly as possible how incredibly valuable this product is, but it is only fair for me to be equally honest about the level of frustration I encountered when working with this product.

This is not our first time reviewing Home School in the Woods’ materials. We were privileged to review the History Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections last year. This ended up making it to our 2016 Top Reviews list (as I am confident The American Revolution will as well). Bottom line is that Home School in the Woods creates some dynamite products that are simply fantastic and provide a creative platform for learning. I was simply delighted to review Time Travelers American History Study: The American Revolution. My first thoughts were of fond memories of our completed lap-pak from last year’s study of U.S. Elections.

I received our links for our digital files and within minutes I had several files transferred over. I met them head on, assuming that I would be able to jump right in and get started. I looked at the more than 100 master files and thought that I must be going about this wrong. I had to close up the file and set it aside for when I had more time. This happened three times before I realized that I was not going about it wrong, there really were that many files. Imagine taking a curriculum guide book and converting it to a digital product page by page; with each page being it’s own file. I was overwhelmed.

Knowing that I needed to give this product a fair review, I started early one morning. I spent well over three hours sorting, opening and printing files. I spent so much time on that portion that I would have been happy to not have to look at the files again, however I knew that I needed to persevere and see this thing through. In hindsight, I was under-equipped to realize the effort necessary to face this feat. Truly. When we reviewed the U.S. Elections program, Handsome took care of printing the files for me. I was extremely frustrated trying to figure out which pages coincided with which and I unwittingly blamed my frustration on him, assuming that he somehow mixed up pages. I now fully recognize the error of my ways! The files come through in a way that appears organized but yet there are a multitude of files that each need to be opened and printed – One.At.A.Time (I had to stress that as clearly as possible). I tried to select several and print them at once, but it did not appear to be possible (I recognize that this could have been operator error, but try as I did, I could not find a solution). So, after hours of printing those files – one at a time – I would have been happy to use the full 1-inch thick stack of papers for fire starter. Unfortunately, it is the summertime and besides, those papers contained information that are valuable for our kids’education.

I always like it when I can say that we started at page one. We have been studying this time period for quite some time now, and even though the early lessons were completely review for us, we knew that we needed to start at the beginning to complete the projects. We made the decision to make a single lap-book as a family, instead of individual ones for each of the kids. Bookworm Beauty took the leadership role and managed the projects from each lesson, working with both Sweetness and The Boy to get those items completed and set aside for the assembly of the lap-book.

There are 25 lessons total, five or which are designated project days for completion of the daily projects that coincide with each lesson and one is a designated celebration day. Each of the 19 actual lessons include a 2-3 page written text lesson and a coinciding project. Projects vary, making the optional final resulting lap-book an enjoyable experience to both make and to review at a later time. I encourage people to not overlook the value of a good lap-book. Every time Bookworm Beauty shares her U.S. Elections lap-book with a guest or a friend (or reminiscing by herself) she gets an opportunity to share what she had learned. It serves as a visual outline to a well written speech for her as she recalls many facts and explains each project piece, lifting flaps and opening mini-books. We look forward to assembling The American Revolution lap-book as a family. I imagine that it will become a coffee table conversational centerpiece for quite a while.

In total, there are less than 60 pages of text to be read, covering the American Revolution events during the time period between 1600-1800, from the first colony through to the Constitutional Convention. We have learned about the Boston Tea Party, the early struggles of the nation, some of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions, many famous individuals that we did not previously know, and so much more! We did not sit down and complete this program one lesson at a time; reading the text and working on a project. We took the text with us on a road trip and read over half of it together, discussing things along the way. We recently read several of the Rush Revere books which covered some of the same material, so our discussions were lively as the kids recalled many details.

During the last week we have taken the time to work on the projects that coincided with the pages that we already read. It has been fun to remember details as we sit around the table together, coloring lap-book pieces. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we have not gotten very far as the kids got sidetracked with the Tax Game! There are three board games that can be made: The Tax Game, Battle Blitz Game and Liberty at Last Game. We have had to refrain ourselves from assembling the other games and getting ahead of ourselves, but have really enjoyed understanding the frustration and dynamics that came along with the immense taxation.

Our favorite lesson, thus far, was lesson 12: Let Freedom Ring! It certainly helped that we celebrated our nations birthday during the review period. We reminisced about how we often read the story of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day and His death and resurrection on Easter, yet we have never read the Declaration of Independence as part of our 4th of July celebration, until this year! This will be a new annual tradition for us, thanks to Home School in the Woods!

Another aspect of Home School in the Woods worth mentioning is that they offer a plethora of hands-on-learning activity-based History resources. They also offer A La Carte items such as printable game boards, file folder studies, mini-studies, timelines, and more. One could find a great addition to almost any history study. At this time, anyone can use the code alacarte at checkout to get the Erie
Canal project on that page for free!

It has been an amazing journey walking through the events of our beloved country’s birth and early years. We just might move on to the Time Travelers: The Early 19th Century, if I can work myself up to acceptance of the amount of work spent in preparation alone.