Sunday, November 29, 2015

Homeschooling High School: Fitting It All In

After carefully determing your child's high school plan, and adding up all the required subjects and credits, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed at how all of this education is going to take place in just four short years! Perhaps you have a reluctant or slower learner, which adds more time into the mix. Then you are also trying to customize your high schooler's plan with subjects that interest them or things they want to pursue. Throw in a few extras such as sports, music, and volunteering, and it starts to get hectic pretty quick.

Here are a few ideas I have found that have worked for us, when trying to complete a high school education and prepare your teen for post-high school life, while homeschooling.

Keep the "Main Thing" the main thing!

It is easy to get overwhelmed with so many choices and directions in which a high schooler can go to study and prepare. Remember why you started this journey in the first place, and keep your goals in front of you. Let decisions be made in light of those goals and priorities. If your high schooler is on a college prep journey and is attempting to get accepted into a competitive program, then there will be things they have to learn to say 'no' to, just because they will need to focus on their academics. Often, choices boil down to what is good versus what is better. Help your teen learn how to make the better choices for themselves, which means at times needing to say no to good things.

Focus on Time Management and Study Habits

These are the two most crucial habits that your teen will need to develop in order to be successful in finishing high school, and in their post high school years, whether it be college, military, or vocational training. It is absolutely critical that they learn their most effective study methods. A great program to identify their learning style is Victus Study Skills System.  Once they learn how to study, they will be able to tackle anything! If you can help them learn good time management, it will be a valuable gift in whatever they attempt to do on their own. I have sat through two college orientations now, and those two things are brought up most often as the greatest hindrances to incoming freshman.

More on Developing Time Management Skills

Several of my children have had struggles with managing their time and completing their work in a timely manner. While I wish to encourage their interest in further study of the current subject matter, I also want to teach them the proper sequence of completing assignments first. It has happened where current assignments do not get completed because something 'caught their attention' and they wanted to pursue it until satisfied. Of course, this IS a main goal of homeschooling, so it is a delicate balance of cultivating a love for learning and independent study, while building the character to complete work on time. One thing we have done is allot a certain amount of time each day for the required assignments. If they can do their extra studying during that time allotment, then it is encouraged. If not, then the requirements must be met first, and the 'knowledge chase' must be temporarily put off until the end of the day. I have also had the children record in their planners the time spent on each subject. By this method, we could easily identify where the trouble spots were when work was not being completed. As hard as it may be, home school moms MUST make their children accountable for work not completed on time, or they will have a very difficult time with this adjustment when in a college setting.

Start Early

We have tried to start as many high school credit classes as we can in eighth grade, of course based on the student's ability and readiness to do so. We have found that starting in on earning credits in eighth grade greatly alleviates the heavy high school load. It is often easiest to take history, science, and electives early. Electives that may be appropriate for eighth grade are typing/keyboarding, computers, foreign language, art or music theory, health/nutrition, or home economics.

Another aspect of starting early is to make the ninth and tenth grade loads the heaviest. This is the time we try to cover as much ground as possible, which frees up eleventh and twelfth grades to allow the student to branch out and specialize some of their studies. Once the student starts driving, typically in those later years, they may wish to get more involved in outside activities or volunteer work. Having the majority of their credits already earned, their schedule may be a little more open and conducive to taking part in more outside opportunities.

Plan In Time For Test Preparation

Once the student hits eleventh grade, they will have to take on regular test preparation studies for their SAT, ACT, and any other tests they will be taking. It is important to factor that needed time in when determining high school schedules. This is another reason why it is best to really work hard in ninth and tenth grades.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

The single most important thing a parent can do during the high school years is to build a strong and stable relationship with their high schooler. Rules without relationship breeds rebellion. Take the time to talk to your kids and make sure you are both continually on the same page as far as their high school plan goes. You want to be sure you are giving them the very best opportunity to fulfill their goals and dreams. Sometimes it is wise to choose your battles, and focus on those areas that will be the best relationship builders. If you see your student is struggling, help them out! It may be that a shifting of subjects or activities is needed, but you will only know that if you work it out together.

It is absolutely possible to "fit it all in" and give your high school student a great homeschooling experience. It may be a lot of work, but it is so satisfying to know that in the end, they are prepared for life as a result of all your efforts!

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Come join the Homeschooling High School Blog Hop to read some more great ideas!

Read more on How to Fit it ALL in while educating in the high school years:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Favorite Black Friday Deals

Some of my favorite companies are having tremendous Black Friday deals and I wanted to share a few here:  {Some links are affiliate links, where I earn a small commission on your purchase}

My Lilla Rose Website has up to 50% off all items and free shipping on orders over $50 all day Friday through Sunday!

Stay focused on healthy eating with specials at 

30% off Christmas Children's Bible Studies  from Grapevine Studies.

Amazon Kindle - Black Friday Deal - only $34.99

Compass Classroom's Homeschool Programs

Visual Latin

All 3 albums for $55 plus free shipping through Christmas!

I will post a few more special deals for Cyber Monday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Parenting With Godly Purpose: Devotions

Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it"

Children naturally follow the path that their parents walk, and get excited over the things that interest their parents. Parents are the greatest influence when shaping the lives of children, whether for good or for bad. We see it often: children love the sport that dad or mom is a fan of, or they have an interest in a hobby that gets mom and dad excited. As much as parents need to enter their child's world, children love to be a part of their parent's world!

This is a tremendous opportunity to instill a love for the Word of God in our children's hearts. Thanks to 'child-like faith' children who are taught the truths of God's Word from an early age naturally crave to know and love God, but this desire must be nurtured as they grow older, or the cares of this world will begin to encroach on it and choke it out.

One of the most effective ways to regularly nurture a child's love for God is through DAILY DEVOTIONS. Devotions are most effective when done together as a family - where children can observe their parents taking time out of the busy schedule to make worshiping the Lord a priority.

Devotions do not need to take a long time, or even follow a rigorous schedule. In fact, a casual gathering around the Word and prayer for the daily needs does not require a large time investment, but rather a pledge to consistency and faithfulness.

Here is a brief outline that can be used for family devotions:
  • Ask if there are any specific prayer requests and then pray over them together as a family. Either a parent can pray or the children can take turns each day. Parents should pray over their children, thanking God for them and asking God's blessing on their day.
  • Read a portion of Scripture together. You can choose a book of the Bible and read through it a little bit at a time, or select portions of Scripture to meet a certain need in your family. You can even select seasonal Scriptures, such as reading through the Christmas story in the month of December.
  • Take a few minutes to share some thoughts about the Scripture that was read. Perhaps a parent can use this as a teaching moment, but it is also fun to allow the children to choose a verse and tell what they learned from it. This would also be a good time to ask if anyone in the family had a question or did not understand any of the verses that were read.
  • Choose a song to sing together. It could be a verse of a favorite hymn, a Scripture song, or even a silly song! 
  • Hugs and kisses! There is so much value to your children starting off their day feeling loved by their parents.
These devotions shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. It is not the quantity of the devotion time, but the quality and consistency that make all the difference. Faithfully meeting around the Word of God with your children every day will speak volumes to them of the priority that your relationship with God has in your life, and children will want to follow that example. Let your devotion time be fun and appealing, not a time to correct all the wrongdoings. Let it be a sweet time of fellowship to ground your family in doing right. 

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Check out this week's Blogging Through The Alphabet Linkup with 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Parenting With Godly Purpose: Courtesy

After discussing busyness last week, this next topic follows a natural progression....taking time to proactively teach habits to your children is much more efficient than chasing after them correcting bad behaviors! When we are too busy, we often skip over much of this groundwork, but it is so important.

In order to have polite children, we must expect and practice COURTESY regularly in our homes! There really is no other way to ingrain this personality trait. As parents, it is imperative to model courteous behavior in front of them. We must also demand it from our children as they interact with their siblings. You cannot expect a child to act however they like at home, then put on manners when they are out in public. Manners and courtesy must be practiced often to become second nature - a way of life.

Often as parents, we are guilty of giving our children lists of chores and expecting their help regularly (and rightfully so) without ever showing them some gratitude. Everyone enjoys being appreciated for their efforts and hard work, and children are no exception. When someone feels appreciated, they will happily work harder and do more out of a willing heart.

I have found that when I demonstrate courtesy by thanking my children for their contributions to our household, through chores, that they feel more like a part of a team than just 'slave labor'. Of course, children's behavior mirrors their parents, so when I show gratitude they begin to do it more frequently as well.

Another way children can be taught to show courtesy is by writing thank you notes to each other for gifts received. After Christmas or birthdays, provide dollar store thank you cards, or allow the children to make their own, and write them to each other. Not only is it great writing practice, but it establishes some common rules of courtesy in the family. As parents, we write them to our children as well when they give us gifts.

Using manners at all times in the home will make them second nature to your children when they are out. If they are constantly hearing 'please', 'thank you', 'you're welcome', 'excuse me', and other common phrases, they will begin using those phrases often, sometimes with a little prodding as needed.

Setting high expectations for common courtesy will create a respectful atmosphere in the home, where the family members treat each other well and there is peace and harmony.

The Bible tells us in  Psalms 133:1 "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

It is not unrealistic to think that siblings can get along in a pleasant and courteous way, but it will take effort on the part of the parents to establish those expectations, and to correct behavior that quickly spirals into bickering and fighting. Things will not always be harmonious, but let a pleasant and courteous atmosphere be the goal that the family is constantly striving for! It will be pleasing to God, and help to make courtesy common in the lives of your children.

In our world today, common courtesy is a lost art - no longer common! Let's do our part to change that in our small corner of the world.

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

I am having a great time reading along with Meg and Cristi and all the other blogs on this Blogging Through The Alphabet Journey.   Stop by and read some of the great ideas and recipes!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Blue Ribbon Awards for 2015

I just finished my last curriculum review for 2015 and was able to look back over the year, enjoying what a wonderful year it was! We were able to review 34 different home school items this year, incorporating them into our daily routine. Reviewing has become a fun way to enhance our home school, learn about new products to share with others, and give feedback directly the companies that are producing these products.

The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew recently voted on our favorite items for the year, and I wanted to share a round up of our family's personal favorites here on my blog. We are eagerly anticipating the announcement of the winners of the Crew's 2015 favorites, also called the Blue Ribbon Awards. Our whole family was able to participate in the voting, casting ballots for "kid's choice", "teen's choice", "family favorite", and "parent's favorite".

Here are our top favorites for this year:

Kelly's Favorite:  A math program....GPA Learn

The rewards that are built into this program were the biggest draw for Kelly, making this program her favorite. She still will log in during her free time to practice math and earn reward certificates.

Melissa's favorite:  She actually had two, (although we had to narrow it down to just one vote). I will mention both her favorites here though....

The wide variety of videos covering so many different topics inspired SmartKidz Media to be her top choice. She has especially loved watching the history movies and cooking videos.

Melissa loves to read, and her other choice is a book that we received to review, called Thick As Thieves. This is a story found in the Old West, with a girl and a horse. It's a great, wholesome book, and Melissa has read it several times.

Laura's favorite: Even though Laura graduated this past June and is a college student now, she still wanted her vote to count, so I'll include it here. Laura wholeheartedly endorsed the high school level AP prep courses in Standard Deviants Accelerate. Laura used this program to study for AP and CLEP exams and felt they gave a good overall preparation.

Mom's favorite: This was a tough I choose the one that I personally liked the best, or the one that I think was best for my family?? Hmmm..... I ended up choosing one that our whole family has enjoyed together over and over since it arrived in our home, and that is The Brinkman Adventures. These audio adventures about a large family helping missionaries around the world really touched our hearts in a special way, and we have spent countless hours listening to them together in the kitchen and the car. 

Dad's Favorite: Our very first review of the year was definitely a winner for Dad. He watched and fully embraced the movie Indoctrination, and has referred back to it often in preaching or conversations. He has also shared it with many people, including several teachers that we know. 

Our Grand Prize Winner: Hands down, all the children mentioned this one for our overall favorite.

This audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions was a real treat. The music and story line are great, and not only did we really enjoy it, but we also learned a lot about the history of Scotland from it. The girls have enjoyed listening to the soundtrack, as well as quoting their favorite lines from it. Everything we have listened to from Heirloom has been fantastic, but there was just something really special about this CD.

Best Additions to our Home School: Being able to review foreign language courses has been one of our favorite aspects of being on the Crew. This year, Kelly and Melissa both got to review a foreign language course that they both fell in love with, so I have to list both of them as the winner to our best addition to our curriculum. 

Melissa was able to review Middlebury Interactive Languages French 1. It is a high school level course that is the next best thing to having an in-person teacher. We absolutely love this program and Melissa is doing very well with it. 

Kelly is having so much fun working through The Fun Spanish from Brookdale House. For middle school, she is learning so much about Spanish grammar and translation. I am glad she has been able to experience this program.

Thanks for sticking with us this year and I hope some of these reviews have been a help to you on this home school journey. Stay tuned as I will be announcing the Crew's Blue Ribbon Awards this week!

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Would you like to know the Crew's favorites, and winners of this year's Blue Ribbon Awards? Click the banner below to read about all the special home school products that won the prestigious honor of being named the best by a panel of home school families!

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Parenting With Godly Purpose: Busyness

This week's post is something that has been on my heart a lot as my children grow older. Lately it seems like every activity in the world beckons to my kids. They want to experience so many different things, yet we struggle to stay grounded and close as a family. Also, as parents, my husband and I are running in a thousand different directions while still trying to do all we can to be good parents.


It seems to be the scourge of American life and of Christianity, in my opinion.

Not only are there the necessary things that clamor for our time....such as church, work, ministry, and household chores, but then we feel the pull to enrich our lives with extras such as hobbies, sports, music lessons, home school activities, trips, parties....and the list goes on and on.

We can be so committed, or over-committed, to activities that we miss the main goal, even while we are thinking that we are chasing after things that we must do!

What is the main goal? First and foremost, to love the Lord our God, and our neighbor as ourselves. Secondarily, as parents, we must find a way to build a strong relationship with our children and tie lots of heart strings between us and them, while we are also teaching them to love God and their fellow man. Sometimes the busyness of life just plain gets in the way of this.

In my own life, I often have to fight to say no to things, making a choice between something that is good and something else that is better. Rarely do we 'waste time' yet some of those days when we do produce some of the best memories with our kids.

I think this is a situation that each parent must examine for themselves to see if their parenting life is balanced in these areas, or if they are just plain too busy to spend time getting to know their child. Can you name your child's favorites? Favorite color, snack, book?

We need to take the time to unplug from our electronics and be one hundred percent available to our children, rather than always being available to everyone in the world, and interrupting our child because we have to answer a text or phone call.

Enrichment activities are important for homeschoolers of course, but when the endless lessons and sports and classes begin to wear out the doers from all the hectic schedule, it might be time to pick and choose which ones are most important and which ones can fade away.

Do you have a child who secretly hopes the power goes out or a class gets canceled so they can spend some time just being with you and 'hanging around'? Are your children too tired to be faithful to their devotions because of their busy life? Then these might be clues that the schedule needs some close inspection.

Also, one thing I notice is that sometimes the schedule is so booked, and every minute so planned out, that we eliminate any chance of  being spontaneous, because, well...we are just too busy! Perhaps a neat opportunity comes our way, or the pastor announces a special meeting at church, yet we can't make the time to attend because of prior commitments to everything, or from just plain being too worn out and stressed to add 'one more thing' to the schedule.

Don't let busyness ruin your investment in parenting. Live the simple life as much as you can. Sometimes the common, everyday life is truly the best!

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

This post is linked up with Meg and Cristi's "Blogging Through The Alphabet"

Check out the link for a list of fun ABC themes!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: GrapeVine Studies

I'm always on the lookout for good Bible study materials for kids because of the many different ways we use them. Not only do we enjoy doing them as a family, but we also work with a lot of kids outside our family, from young ones all the way up to teens, and fresh materials are always a help.

This year, we really needed a good Bible study program, as we are between two different ones that I like to use with the kids, so the opportunity to review The Birth of Jesus - Multi-level Studies from GrapeVine Studies came at the perfect time for us. 

What is GrapeVine Studies? This is a Bible study curriculum designed specifically for children to use with their own Bibles and study materials. It does not promote any one certain faith or practice, but allows the student to learn Bible stories through a multi-sensory approach that includes hearing, seeing, and drawing the lessons. GrapeVine has materials for all ages, including beginner lessons for preschoolers all the way through studies for teens.

How does this curriculum work? We received a teacher book, student book, and traceable lessons that can be used for all ages, but are especially helpful for really young students. The Birth of Jesus contains five lessons, that should span about 24 days worth of activity. The program is self paced and very flexible. Older students can complete more, but parents/teachers can break the lessons down into daily or even weekly pages to complete as they see fit. 

I love seeing my kids using their Bibles and studying verses!

The lesson contains a complete timeline for the entire story. We started out by reading the verses and filling out that timeline to see the big picture. Though the teacher book has plenty of suggestions for how to teach the lessons, in the end, the teacher can tailor the program to best meet the needs of their students. 

Each lesson has several drawing pages that correlate with the verses listed. Students hear the story, then draw (or write) it back on these pages, as they understand it. There is a memory verse for each lesson that the student copies onto their worksheet. Also each lesson gives a space for the student to draw what their favorite part of that piece of the story is. At the end of the lesson are review questions which can be answered orally or written down. Each lesson also reviews the timeline regularly, and builds on it as the student progresses through the curriculum.

What is included in the books? The teacher book has diagrams that the teacher can use to draw the lesson on the board as they teach it. Some teachers would prefer that the student interprets the story on their own and draws their own perspective, rather than just copying the teacher's drawings, so the teacher can also just use the teacher book as a guideline for what points to emphasize for each drawing block of the story, guiding the students into completing their pages. The teacher book is 64 pages long.

The 48 page student book contains all the worksheets for the student to read the verses and complete their drawings. GrapeVine is built on the premise that students will retain more information by utilizing this method of hearing the lesson and then drawing it.

The traceable worksheets that we received are the same as the student book, with the exception of the faded gray 'shadow' stick figures drawn on the blocks, for younger children to trace over. 

How did we use this? I used this program with Kelly, my 5th grader. I think she's at a good age for this, because she is starting to develop a little more abstract thinking and interpretive skills, and was able to draw some very interesting illustrations for the program. The stick figures really made her laugh, and she definitely remembered fine details of the stories. The first day I showed her how to draw the stick figure people and she copied my sketches. After that, she took off on her own and came up with some pretty neat illustrations - some resembled the teacher's guide, while others were very different, but all were interesting!

We were able to get out the Bible Atlas as well, and complete a map of Judea at the time of Christ's birth. This was a great exercise in finding information and using the Atlas. 

Using the atlas to complete the map of Judea

The lessons are set up to work them over a 4-5 day period, with built in review days at the end of the week. Because the stories were familiar, Kelly wanted to work at a faster pace. The simplicity of the drawings is conducive to moving along at a faster pace if desired. 

Day 1 of Lesson 1, copying the stick figures.
Some of Kelly's illustrations, showing the generations of the genealogy of Christ, and Mary and Joseph's responses to the news. 

What do we think? This is a simple and enjoyable Bible study curriculum for kids. Kelly laughed quite a bit at the silly drawings (mine included) and really surprised me with some of the interesting ways she illustrated the stories. It was great insight into the way her mind is thinking about the Bible at this stage of her life. As a mom, I was pleased to find a way to have an enjoyable time studying the Bible together with my daughter using GrapeVine Studies.

Need some more information? GrapeVine has a web page that explains all the levels to choose which one would be best for your child. The multi-level curriculum has suggestions in the teacher book for breaking the lesson down into meaningful parts to use with a range of ages, which makes it perfect for a home school family. GrapeVine also has sample lessons on their website to give you a better idea of what a day of GrapeVine lessons might look like in your home school. 

A side note: On the worksheets, only the references are printed out, not the entire verse.  I see two distinct advantages to this: 1) We are able to use our own King James Bibles, and 2) the children get practice in finding verses and reading them out of the Bible, rather than just off a worksheet. I feel like reading the verses right out of the Bible makes them feel like they are really doing a Bible study, not just a fun worksheet.

To connect with GrapeVine Studies on social media, click the following links:

To read how other members of the Crew used GrapeVine Studies, click the banner below:

Grapevine Studies Review

Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

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Critical Thinking Discount Code

Just after publishing my last review, I received an email with a discount code from The Critical Thinking Company. Because we have enjoyed our review items from them so much, we had a few things we were planning on purchasing, so this code comes at just the right time! 

I wanted to share it here, in case anyone else would like to try any of their great products, including the ones we have just reviewed.

With any purchase over $25, you can save 20% off your order! 

Use coupon code HVT1511

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: The Basics of Critical Thinking

One of my favorite perks of homeschooling is being able to tailor the curriculum to suit my children's needs and address their weaknesses. For a long time, I have known that critical thinking skills were an area that I needed to focus on, so when the opportunity came along to review The Basics of Critical Thinking from The Critical Thinking Co. I was thrilled to receive the book and start in on it with Melissa and Kelly.

As you may remember from my past review of Math Analogies from The Critical Thinking Co., I thoroughly enjoy the emphasis this company places on teaching real life skills to children of all ages through a wide variety of curriculum choices.

About The Basics of Critical Thinking: This is a softcover 144 page book that introduces the student to all concepts of critical thinking through twenty lessons. Each colorful lesson is about 4-6 pages long, and first explains a concept, followed by a sample problem, and then several pages of student practice problems. There is an answer key in the back of the book that thoroughly explains the correct answer and how it came to be. Text is large print, nicely spaced, attractive, and easy to read.

Age Recommendations: Critical Thinking Co. lists this book for grades 4-9, which I think is a very accurate range. Children younger than that really do not have the mental capacity for the abstract thought processes and deduction/reasoning skills that are required for this book.  I also think that older students could benefit from this book if they have not yet had exposure to critical thinking skills or are struggling in that area.

Topics covered: The lessons do not need to be done in order. In fact, we skipped around and did a little from multiple lessons, just to mix it up a bit. After reading and learning the concept, the student can do one or more of the practice problems. Lessons focus on the following:

  • Decisions & conclusions
  • Beliefs & claims
  • Finding & evaluating evidence
  • Inferring & inferences
  • Facts & opinions
  • Facts, probable truths, & probably falsehoods
  • Venn diagrams
  • Logical connectives
  • Advertising
  • Agreements & contracts
  • Common errors in reasoning
  • Arguments, including valid and invalid arguments such as straw man or red herring
  • Fallacies
  • Analogies
There are also a few pages of teacher notes that explain what critical thinking is, why it is important, and some myths that people cling to regarding critical thinking.

How we used this:  Although the lessons are designed to be worked independently by the student, I decided to do these exercises together with Kelly (grade 5) and Melissa (grade 9). They would take turns filling out the page as we discussed the lesson. There was so much information that I really wanted to teach them and be sure that they were fully grasping the concepts. I would first go over the presentation of the concept, then we would read and discuss the sample problem before allowing them to take over and answer the questions on their own. It was interesting to see how quickly they grasped the material and were able to 'solve' the practice problems. 

Another interesting phenomenon occurred as we sat at the table and worked through this book. My two college kids migrated into the room and began enthusiastically participating in the lessons. They were thrilled to know that critical thinking skills were being addressed in our home school in such a fun way, because they have come to realize how important that is when attending college. They eagerly jumped into the animated discussion, and we really had a great time working through the pages of this book as a family. Every time we have worked on this book we get the same result - a fun time and kids who don't want to stop, begging for just one more page please!!

My opinion: I am hooked on this book, and am so glad that we have been able to use it. The kids really enjoyed the argument lesson that focused on straw man and red herring arguments, and have begun pointing those out in everyday discussions, asking whether a certain statement qualifies as one of these. I love that there is very little lecture time or wordiness, and that the students learn through the repetition of interesting activities. There is little writing. Really, there is absolutely nothing that a kid could complain about when completing these lessons. The entire time they are working, they are learning. I liked this book so much that I am planning on purchasing the next level, Practical Critical Thinking,  to work on once we finish this book.

The Kids' Favorite: The girls enjoyed working on "Finding Evidence" the most, because it involved solving mysteries. A problem was presented, then four choices were given as possible solutions. By evaluating evidence, a reasonable solution was found. Here is an example of one of those pages, where they figured out which suspect was the thief.

  They also really liked the colorful Venn Diagrams, even though they found them to be pretty easy.

To connect with The Critical Thinking Company on social media, click the following links:

Members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew have reviewed a number of materials from Critical Thinking Company over these recent weeks. To read the rest of the reviews, click the banner below:

The Critical Thinking Company Review
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Thank you Veterans! (Wordless Wednesday)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: Eat Your Science Homework

What better way to learn science than to combine it with something kids love - working in the kitchen and making snacks? Ann McCallum Books has produced a lineup of kid friendly books for Science, History, and Math that make learning fun!  

We had the privilege of reviewing Eat Your Science Homework - Recipes for Inquiring Minds, and we had a lot of fun with it!

About Ann McCallum: Ann is a former one-room schoolhouse teacher, who has traveled extensively and written several different educational books. 

About Eat Your Science Homework: This is a 48 page softcover book that has six projects along with a plateful of science information and facts. Ann covers everything from safety in the 'lab' (the kitchen) to using the scientific method.  The book is full of fun and appealing illustrations along with vocabulary terms that are important to know, and introduces young scientists to many terms and concepts that are actually more advanced, but made simple in a fun and easy-to-relate-to way through comparing them with foods.  

About the projects: Each project includes a simplified recipe embedded in several pages of science notes, that explain the concepts being demonstrated by the recipe. While some of it may be a little hard to grasp, it is a great introduction to such tough scientific facts such as the periodic table of the elements, chemistry, forensics, or the solar system. 

Walk Through A Project: For this review, I would like to walk you through our experience with one of the projects, so you can see how thorough of a science lesson it was, as well as how much we enjoyed it. 

In the pictures above, you will see the progression of our science project, aka "Atomic Popcorn Balls".  After reading the page in the book about elements, and looking at the Periodic Table of the elements, we discussed how molecules are formed by elements that bond together. The purpose of the project was to demonstrate that two hydrogen atoms (the blue popcorn balls) and one oxygen atom (the pink popcorn ball) could be joined together to form a water molecule.

The directions in the book are very simple. Because my girls are older and a little more experienced in the kitchen, they needed very little help with making the recipe, although younger children would definitely need adult supervision when using the stove or completing the recipes.

The girls gathered the necessary ingredients and followed the steps to make two different colored popcorn balls. They then used toothpicks to join them together into 'water molecules'. 

We found the project interesting, and the girls definitely enjoyed learning about science while making snacks that they enjoyed eating. They talked about the lesson the entire time they were eating their popcorn balls, and even told some friends about it when they shared some of the extra snacks!

A Bonus for Teachers: On the website, there is a free downloadable educational guide that gives the teacher/parent some extra key concepts to emphasize when completing a project. There are also printable vocabulary charts and pages that would make great additions to a scientific notebook for a student, allowing them to really turn this book into a great addition to their science learning. The 21 page book includes templates for the teacher to use, and students to fill in.

Here is an example of a student page from the teacher's guide:

Age Recommendation: While this book is geared towards ages 7-10, I have to say that my 10 and 14 year olds both enjoyed it immensely. While the concepts were not new to them, it was a great review of things they have learned, and also was a great demonstration of concepts to help their understanding grow deeper.

Our overall opinion: We had so much fun with this book. It inspires me to make learning fun with my kids by doing great little hands-on projects like this to help them remember the concepts. I am inspired to try some of the other books in this series, because the girls enjoyed this book so much. 

To read about the other books in this series and see how the Crew used them, click the banner:

Ann McCallum Books Review
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