Saturday, August 7, 2010

TOS Review: Goofy Gecko--Download 'N' Go Unit Study by Amanda Bennett

Oh, Boy, have my nature lovers had a great time this week!!!!  We got the opportunity to review Goofy Gecko Download 'N' Go and it was a sure hit! My boys looove all things nature.  No creature is exempt from their affections or denied handling at a moment's notice.  Thank Heavens these were admired from the distance of the worldwide web.  While I may give off the 'nerves of steel' air when my children bestow their blessed creatures upon the threshold of our home, I am truly panicking inside. 

Goofy Gecko is a downloadable unit study in e-book format by Amanda Bennett. This is a one week unit with no additional purchases necessary. Objectives for each day are clearly outlined, which gives you a good idea of what the format will be, for easy planning.  The teacher can easily glance over and quickly decide if, for example, there might be a field trip possibility.  Videos and links associated with each day's objectives are provided.  Also, printable lapbook components come with the study. Additional resources can be found at local libraries to enhance the study, so a list of possible enrichment titles is included as well. 

I used this study  with two of my children, ages 6 and 8.  Both children love nature and animals but lack enthusiasm for the paper-y work of mini books and such.

We did this study over three days.  Usually science  is 2-3 days per week, depending on depth.  We made a mediocre attempt at the lapbook on a fourth day.  As I mentioned, my boys are not thrilled with the concept of lapbooks.  The three of us sat around our family computer, learning all manner of facts and figures on these creatures.  The videos were wonderful!  We especially loved the one where we watched the gecko turn from brown to green in real time .  We were all amazed.  One of my children commented on  how wonderfully God created our world . My  preschooler was even caught with the wide-eyed look during the video sessions.  The majority of the 'studying' was done orally, with me reading aloud from some of the links or other  material provided in the e-book.  I did not have access to many library books to go along with this.  Our small town library had to order in the few that we did get.  So, we mostly used the one or two resources I had on hand and the teacher's information provided in the E-book itself.  I still felt it was sufficient, even without the extras.  My 5th grader added her input on occasion as we went through some of the discussions in creating  the lapbook, actually helping out in the review process.  There were also a few lizard related practical jokes that ensued shortly after being inspired by the day's science (as I'm sure any Mom of boys can imagine).

I really enjoyed that all of the work and research  was done for me.  It almost felt too easy! I do wish the list of book resources was more exhaustive, as my small town library only had a few of the ones given.  In my opinion, a child in the upper age range could have done this study with  minimal assistance.  This takes a ton of the workload  off of Mom and allows her to enjoy being able to be with the children (and maybe even learn along with them!).  I appreciated the ease of use of this format and  how well organized  it was.  Also, if you're a planner by nature (like me), you might find yourself out of a job.  But, don't worry, you'll quickly be sidetracked by little ones whose eyes are lit with wonder at our Creator.

Full Disclosure:
I was provided a copy of  this book in exchange for my honest opinion.  This would have been my opinion had I purchased the book myself.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Hybrid Spelling Method

As I previously promised, here is more info on my hybrid spelling method. I have heard many, many rave reviews on Spelling Power.  Many curricula include it in their packages or recommended resources.  Assuming it was something that I must have, I purchased it (used, on ebay) last year, along with the task cards.   I have also purchased the corresponding notebooks that go along with the program. I haven't regretted it, but I also haven't used it as it was intended. 

I have tested my children for placement, according to the program guidelines.  Beginning with where the child should begin, I use the word list for the week and enter those words into the  list manager at Spelling City and label each list with the student's grade/week number. (For example, 3rd grade/week1).  The student will go into Spelling City and play a game to learn the words and do the test.  The words the student missed are transferred into the notebook to be used in the 10-step study section and continue on with the instructions from Spelling Power.   This relieves me of having to call out words every day to each child. this process is repeated.  If, by Thursday* the child is still getting the same few words wrong, they will write those words 5 times.  This will be done on the front of that day's 10-step page.   Friday, that will require the child copy the words 10 times.   Hopefully, they will have a perfect test on Saturday.   If they get a perfect test at any point in the week, they are done with Spelling for that week.  They are really working hard to get that as early in the week as possible.  The task cards are barely ever used, as I think my children get plenty of all that they require with other curricula that we use.  But, if you didn't go as deeply into other curricula, they could easily enhance your language arts program!

* We school Tuesday-Saturday, as that is what works with my husbands work schedule so that we have family time with him when he is home.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Planning for Next Year Part 4 - 3rd grade

This year is going to be so much fun!  I hope :)  I am planning for all of my children to become a little more independant in their studies, according to their abilities.  Really, I am hoping that they will come up with some iniative of their own.  My 3rd grader is pretty strong in the area of math and is a good reader (not to be confused with those who actually enjoy the reading part, but he is  a strong reader).  Narration needs more practice as well has handwriting and spelling.  I have mixed and matched some things to come up with this plan for him:
Math: Abeka workbook only (no need for tests with all that review, in my opinion)
Christian Liberty Reader: History Stories for Children for practice in narration
A Reason for Handwriting-a very simple way to teach cursive
Language:  Abeka Workbook only
Spelling:  hybrid b/t and Spelling Power (more on this method later)
History:  Group studies:  Guest Hollow (see review here)
Science:  This kid looooves the outdoors, but he will have to do a smidge of  'work' in this area, usually with a unit study with his siblings and some experiments from various resources
Art:  How to Teach Art to Children (group setting as well)
Music:  Keyboard continuing slowly in this
P.E.  Flag Football in the fall, we'll see what else might come along when the time comes

I am interested in what other 3rd grade boys do...please share.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Curriculum Review: Guest Hollow American History

Guest Hollow  is a free resource for History, adaptable for grades 2-6.  There are many resources scheduled which can be found in most public libraries.  There are a few other resources mentioned that would need to be purchased.  Science recommendations are included, as well as some notebooking elements and other fun stuff.  Some charts, maps and resources are linked within the download.  And, did I mention that it is Free!!???

I have been using it for a few weeks, after I mentioned that I needed to consider changing horses mid-stream.  Instead of sending each of my children on their own history expeditions, I opted for a group approach to history as we had done in the past.  I realize that 2 weeks is barely time to get a good grip on things, but honestly, it is very much working for us.   I have not been able to find every single book at the library, but I have been able to maintain the 'skeleton' of the program and my children are thoroughly enjoying it. I am using it with  1st , 3rd and 5th grade students.

The first several weeks focus on Native American studies.  We have not done a unit or indepth study of any kind on this topic, so my children are really running with these ideas.  But this did coincide with a recent field trip to a Native American museum nearby.  Posted below, you will find just a few pics of my children enjoying some of the suggested projects from the download and History Pockets .  I particularly enjoy that each day is scheduled in a grid format and I can 'check off the boxes'  and feel accomplished and still enjoy the living books approach.  Several maps and other resources are linked within the download which make it very easy to use. A workbook is  listed but I do not own it and feel that things are still going quite well with the library books , History Pockets, and other activities/resources mentioned.

Guest Hollow also offers other general resources as well as American History Year 2 and some Science goodies!
This is one little cutie!
We learned the steps from a youtube video and watched many videos then tried our own pow-wow. Too bad you can't hear the audio to all this hubbub.  It sounded like the real thing!
In the National Museum of the Native American Indian.  We spent most of the day and only got through two levels.

This Longhouse project was linked in the download.  We all worked on this one together.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One of My Favorite Memories

from childhood is VBS during summer vacation.  I was always sooo excited.  I actually enjoyed the week of structured activities in the middle of the carefree-ness of summer.  I loved the whole thing: chapel, saying the pledges, learning the songs, the crafts, snacks and even the hokey presentation for the entire church at the end of the week.  I loved it all!!!   And now my kids do, too!!

Four days last week, from 9-12, my children were at VBS having a blast.  And making memories.  This was the first year that they were all eligible.  And the last. Next year, my oldest will no longer be eligible.  So, I guess you're wondering what I did with myself.  I cleaned one day.  Two days I shopped.  One day I went to the library.  I had a great time, but I'm really, really glad they did, too.  The end of the week pool party was another treat.  My daughter got a chance to chat with another  homeschooler that she didn't speak to all week, and found a friend.  They've already emailed and chatted on the phone since then.  I love it.  I pray regularly that my children will will have good friends wherever we are. That is a blessing to my mama-heart.