Monday, November 22, 2010

TOS Review: Christian Kids Explore Science

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Often when people ask me about my favorite parts of homeschooling, I tell them about how I can find the curriculum that best meets my children's needs and how I can spend more time on the subjects that need more practice.

For some subjects, it's been fairly easy to find a curriculum that fits our family. Unfortunately, science has been a bit of a struggle for the past few years. The science curriculum that worked for Addison during her early elementary years was too time intensive for it to work well with Brennan. We spend a lot of our days working on reading, spelling, and composition. Sadly, science often gets pushed towards the bottom of the priority list and overlooked.

Bright Ideas Press graciously allowed me to choose which one of their products that I wished to review, and I jumped at the opportunity to try an elementary science program that I haven't seen before.

I received a copy of Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space by Stephanie Redmond ($29.95) and the corresponding Student Activity Book download ($12.95). The materials in this book are divided into 6 units that cover 24 lessons. For Earth Science, the lessons cover Creation, Rocks, Water, Weather, the Universe, and much more.

Each lesson consists of two parts -- Teaching Time and Hands-On Time. The author recommends doing each part on a different day. For the past month, twice weekly science has worked well for us. The text is clear and easy to read. The relatively short readings fit our attention span, and perhaps more importantly in our house, fit the amount of time that we have while Lauren is preoccupied with something other than Mommy. Each lesson has corresponding coloring pages and often a simple written activity. These materials can either be photocopied from the main text or printed from the Activity Book download.

I was pleasantly surprised when I read through the Hands-On activity suggestions. My science struggles with other curriculums did not end when it came to finding time to do the daily readings. I also struggled every week with the idea of gathering materials and setting up a hands-on activity. Even when the materials were fairly easy to find, many many science projects have gone undone in this house. For some reason, the activities in the Christian Kids Explore book are not nearly as intimidating.  They are actually getting done, and Brennan is really enjoying a science curriculum with hands-on activities that help him learn the materials. Just this past weekend, we explored plate tectonics with the shells of boiled eggs. I haven't shown him yet, but one of the activities further along in the book is making a dessert that models the layers of sedimentary rocks. I think that activity will be a favorite in everyone's book. The text also includes very, very simple activities that can make the science lesson both interesting and appropriate for a younger sibling's introduction to earth science.

I know that many other homeschool families devote more time to science, and they might be afraid that this curriculum will be too simple to fit their needs. For our family, I'm doing far less than the author recommends. In addition to reading from the text and completing the hands-on activities, she suggests to spend time reviewing recent lessons, reviewing flash cards that you've made with vocabulary words and lesson facts. Time should also be spent everyday doing outside reading and researching related topics of interest. There are Daily Reading Sheets to copy or print so that you can keep track of what your child learns during this time. Busy homeschool parents will appreciate the 18 pages of supplemental reading suggestions that are included. In my opinion, this curriculum can be tweaked to fit families with a big interest in science and families (like mine) that just want to make sure science isn't completely overlooked in the elementary years.

The Christian Kids Explore Science materials are perhaps the favorite science curriculum that I've used with my children. There's not too much reading for our busy days and not too much tinkering involved with the hands-on activities. I'm excited that Brennan and I get to continuing studying Earth Science this year using this book.

It might be a bit too early to be thinking about next year's curriculum choices, but I firmly believe that I'll be choosing another Christian Kids Explore product. Perhaps the hard part will be trying to decide if we'll do physics, chemistry, or biology.

You can see other reviews of homeschool materials from Bright Ideas Press on The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew blog. I know that several homeschool parents also chose to receive books from the Christian Kids Explore Science series for this review.

Disclaimer: I received the Christian Kids Explore Earth and Science book and the companion Student Activity download as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TOS Review: Corps of Re-Discovery

It seems like Addison always has some sort of craft project lying around the house somewhere. Just this evening, she had a set of knitting needles and a ball of yarn out while I was reading our history book. I'm not sure if she'll make another set of fingerless gloves or if it's a pair of socks this time.

When it comes to Brennan, however, I struggle with finding craft ideas that have enough boy appeal to encourage him to finish a project. Our review product from Corps of Re-Discovery was perfect for him.

He received a Fringe Pouch kit that retails for $11.99. It included the prepunched leather pieces, thread, laces, needle and instructions. I read over the instructions and then packed the project kit in our bags when we were leaving for a long car ride. Brennan did a good job of following the instructions on his own, with just a few hints from me along the way. Since he's never sewn before, I was quite impressed with the way the project turned out. Somewhere along the way, our fringed piece of leather got lost and Brennan chose to make his pouch without it instead of waiting until we could get home and search through his room to find the fringe.



I estimate that this project took Brennan a little more than an hour of concentrated effort. During that time, he not only learned to sew. He learned to follow directions, to work carefully, to persevere when something seemed difficult, and to be proud of a finished product. His pouch was one of the first things he showed to his grandparents when we finally arrived at our destination late that evening.

There are several other projects available from Corps of Re-Discovery that have inherent boy-appeal in my opinion. I know that Brennan would enjoy making the Possibles Bag ($24.50), the Coin Pouch ($4.99), and perhaps even the necklace kits that come with bear claws or deer antler tips (less than $5). Perhaps one or more of these kits will be under the tree for Christmas.

Corps of Re-Discovery also has some projects that my daughter is drooling over -- patchwork quilts, cornhusk dolls, etc.

My bottom line is that these projects are a great idea for any child. They get bonus points in my book for creating craft projects that appeal to the boys that often don't find interesting projects worth completing.

I received the Fringe Pouch kit as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tag, I'm it!

Marie at Our Best Daze tagged me in a meme a few weeks ago. I'm really little slow in responding, but I'll play along.

Actually, I started to respond. In the meantime, Debra at Footprints in the Butter also tagged me.

Marie answered eight questions, and then asked eight new ones of her own. Debra answered 16 questions (for the several times she was tagged). I'll try to do the same.
  1. What type of gifts do you prefer to give?  Do you prefer home-made, gift certificates, store-bought, etc? Ummm... I'm a bad gift giver. At least part of my problem is that my perfectionist tendencies mean that I keep trying to think of the absolute perfect gift to give. I often give gift certificate or gift cards because I think that's a safer way to please someone.
  2. What type of gifts do you prefer to receive? I'm not that picky. I enjoy seeing what someone picked out for me, but I also enjoy getting to use a gift card to find something that I've been looking at for a while.
  3. Do you stock a gift closet, or box, and purchase gifts throughout the year? See #1. I'm not on the ball nearly that much.
  4. What is your favorite type of music?  Do you have one? I most often listen to Comtemporary Christian music, but somedays I just like to goof off and listen to country music. If it's a country day, I like the really goofy stuff like "Who's Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" or "Beer For My Horses." Oddly, I also like country drinking songs, even though I never drink.
  5. Do you like chick-flicks, or not? I can't remember the last time I saw a movie that wasn't during Family Movie Night with the kids.
  6. Do you have a hobby?  Do you make time for it regularly?  I'd consider reading and knitting hobbies that I make time for. (Actually, I do those while I'm sitting in the waiting room during Lauren's therapy, but I do get to do them regularly.) I also enjoy scrapbooking, but I haven't made the time for it in forever.
  7. What is your favorite thing about where you live?  Every place has its pros and cons.  What are the “pros” about where you live?  We've only lived here for a couple months so we're still adjusting a bit. I like the more relaxed pace here, and people are definitely friendlier in the south. Oh... I don't have to drive for over an hour to get to the nearest Sonic.
  8. What is your favorite kids cartoon movie? I don't know. I think I've overheard so much Max and Ruby TV shows lately that my brain has turned to mush.
  9. How did you decide to Homeschool?  When I was struggling with Addison's first grade teacher, I received a Sonlight catalog. Tim and I decided that we could homeschool until we moved later that year because it would be a whole lot more fun and whole lot less stressful than fighting against the system. Less than a year turned into "we could homeschool while we live near DC and be able to do all sorts of cool educational stuff." Somehow we turned into a homeschool family along the way, and I can hardly imagine not homeschooling.
  10. What is something about you most people would be surprised to know? I don't know how surprising, but I do have some weird stuff that I could share. I learned to ride a unicycle and to juggle, but not both at the same time. I once ate the same breakfast (Sausage McMuffin w/ Egg, no cheese) every single day for months on end. I'm not sure I want to do that again.
  11. What is your favorite praise and worship song?  It's hard to narrow it down. Right now, I'd have to say, "Dessert Song." I posted about it a few months ago. Other favorites are "Blessed Be Your Name" and "You Never Let Go."
  12. If you had no children and homeschooling wasn't necessary, what would your dream job be?  I really don't know. If/when I ever go back to work, I could see me going into some sort of medical related field (occupational therapist, dietician, pharmacist, or something). I wouldn't have become this interested in those sorts of careers if it hadn't been for my children, though.
  13. What book(s) are you currently reading?  Ummm... a bunch of stuff just for fun. I just downloaded a new Robin Cook thriller for my nook. I have a Stephanie Plum mystery (or two) and a James Patterson book from the library. I also have at least one Nicholas Sparks book out from the library. There's a parenting book in the bathroom, and a collection of vegan cookie recipes in the kitchen. It drives my husband crazy that I'll be in the middle of more than one book at a time.
  14. How has Jesus changed you?   I have hope. (Jer. 29:11 -- "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.") Most importantly, I don't have to navigate through this life by myself or on my own power.
  15. How would you like to be remembered by your children? I'd like for them to remember the fun times we've had together and to remember a mom that truly loved them and was doing the best she could.
  16. How will your children likely remember you? Unfortunately, I fear that they'll remember a mom that was often too busy trying to just keep up with everything and trying to juggle this, that, and whatever.
Now, I get to tag eight people and ask them eight questions.
  1. Amy at Bow of Bronze
  2. Heather at Heather and her Boys
  3. Elyse at Following Him
  4. Meg at The Falciani Kids
  5. Tess at ~Circling Through This Life~
  6. Crafty Mom at A Crafty Mom's Life
  7. Dixie at Look Away.. Dixie Land
  8. Tim at Simple Family, Complex Life
And, finally, here are your eight questions:

  1. What is your favorite scripture or inspiration quote?
  2. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
  3. What is your favorite comfort food meal to cook?
  4. If you had an afternoon with absolutely nothing that you absolutely had to do, what would you do with the time?
  5. Tea? Coffee? Diet Coke?
  6. What's your favorite candy?
  7. What weird talent (or talents) do you have?
  8. How many hours do you spend on the computer on an average day?

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