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Archive for January, 2011

TOS Crew Review — Bible Dictionary for kids

January 26th, 2011

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Product: Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids

Details: A Bible dictionary made just for kids to use on their own, or with an adult to help them, in understanding more about people, places, and things mentioned in the Bible.

Price: $14.99

What we loved . . .

  • Attention grabbing! As soon as this came out of the packaging, my kids were all over it. The cover catches your eye and page after page is full of colorful illustrations, maps, real photographs, and charts to help make clearer many different passages of Scripture.
  • Kids can explore on their own. Geared toward kids ages 5 through 10, this sturdy hard cover book rested comfortably in the hands of my 7 year old as she excitedly looked up various words that came to mind. Beatitudes, plagues, communion, Matthew, etc. Each one offered her an entry with information that complemented and cemented what we are learning during Bible times or what she has recently studied at church.
  • Easy searching. Each page has the letters of the alphabet along the edge with the first letter of those entries highlighted. So, from anywhere in the book you can easily get to a different section with the letter that you are looking for. Even my 5 year old was able to use this to find words that he wanted to look up.
  • Substantial number of entries. Maybe not abridged, but with 750 entries, this dictionary does have every word my kids have wanted to know more about since we received it, and roughly two thirds of the entries also have graphics to accompany them in addition to the written explanation.
  • Biblical references. Of course, what would a Bible dictionary be without actual references? This one includes at least one and often a few fitting references to go with each entry.
  • Great reference tool for kids learning to study on their own. Although the internet can probably give all this information and more, this book has it in a safe, easy to use format for younger children. I don’t let my under 10 kids just surf the web, even with filters in place. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives them a place to look up words they may want to know more about as I am encouraging them to start reading and studying the Bible on their own.

Some considerations . . .

  • Limited age range. Although I could see the appeal of a Bible dictionary for a wider range, early readers would have a hard time using it on their own, and kids in their preteen years might find the graphics babyish. The publisher did well giving the appropriate age range, and it would likely not find as receptive an audience outside of those ages.
  • Not a Bible study book. Bible dictionaries are great tools when studying the Bible, but they are not a Bible study in and of themselves. I think this is an important book to have on your shelves if you want your kids to begin exploring Scripture for themselves, but they will need some direction to learn how to make the most of it.

Studying the Bible accurately is one of my primary goals for my children. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary is a great asset toward reaching that goal and we look forward to making the most of it for years to come.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Lifeway Christian Stores as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Wool crafts

January 25th, 2011
Esther's Place logo

A new season of classes has begun at Esther’s Place in Big Rock. If you have not been for a visit, it is worth the drive. This little shop, that also houses a bed and breakfast type retreat center, has some amazing treasures inside. Natasha has taken the crafts of spinning and felting to a whole new level, while at the same time taking them back to their origins. They raise their own sheep and then take the wool from start to finish to create some amazing pieces. She is truly an artist and will inspire the artist in you as well.

Check out their full line of classes for everyone from children to adults, from beginners to experts.

If you don’t see a class that suits your schedule or interests, give them a call and create something for your group. We enjoyed a field trip out there a few years ago and my children still talk about it.

Bridge building contest

January 24th, 2011

Learned about this fun looking contest over at Kathy Wentz’s blog.

The link to the full contest information is here. Developed by West Point and sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this contest is open to all kids age 13 through Grade 12. They can do this on their own or in pairs and it looks like it can all be done from the comfort of your own computer. It has a download for both Macs and Windows, so hopefully all interested students can enter.

Looks like a great science and math supplement or motivator. Scholarship money is available to the winners, too, if that motivates any students. :)

HOW TO ENTER
Download and install the West Point Bridge Designer 2011 software.
Use the software to design and test a virtual bridge.
Register your team.
Log in and submit as many designs as you like.
It’s absolutely FREE!
Who: U.S. students age 13 through grade 12 are eligible for prizes. Anyone else may enter our Open Competition. More about eligibility
When: The 2011 contest began on January 10, 2011, and the Qualifying Round will end on February 25. More about the contest schedule
Prizes: Each member of the first-place team earns a $10,000 scholarship. Each finalist wins a notebook computer. More about prizes

Classical Conversations

January 23rd, 2011

Classical Conversations

Just added a Classical Conversations class in Chicago to the listing on this site, but also wanted to make you all aware of upcoming local events for Classical Conversations Co-ops in the area.

This is the time of year when everyone starts meeting and planning for the coming school year.

Please check the Classical Conversations site for a full listing of informational meetings and open houses coming up in the next weeks.

Here is just a snippet:

January 25 — Sugar Grove

February 1 — Minooka

February 3 — Wheaton and Oswego

And more to follow in Bolingbrook, Rockford, DeKalb, etc. Check it out if you would like more information!

TOS Crew Review — Speekee

January 21st, 2011

Speekee logo

“Adios . . . Adios . . . Adios, my amigo, adios.”

Brooke started it, and soon Nathan and Faith joined in. Blake (13 years old) groaned a bit and tolerated their jubilant singing on the way to gym and swim. Paige couldn’t help singing along even though she hasn’t really watched the videos with them.

And so, Speekee has infiltrated our home. The irresistible jingles and repetitive dialogue are really teaching my kids some basic Spanish, and they are liking it.

Speekee

Product: Speekee Spanish online learning videos

Details: An online Spanish learning program that includes videos, activity suggestions, and printable worksheets. Ten lessons in all to introduce a child to conversational Spanish.

Price: $7.50 per month

What we loved . . .

  • Foreign language without tears. We’ve tried so many foreign language program I could almost cry. Each one we either don’t learn from, get tired of, or just plain don’t like. Speekee has brought something new to our home — foreign language learning that kids love, and I do, too.
  • Full access. With the monthly fee you can watch and rewatch each video as much as you please. Your kids can watch on their own or as a group, with you or without. My kids did a little of all those arrangements. The printable worksheets can be printed out for as many of your kids as needed and you can even reprint their favorites to do more than once.
  • Likable characters. My kids enjoyed the mix of puppets and real people. The kids spoke clearly and didn’t seem overly scripted or fake. The puppets entertained while educating.
  • Immersion method. Speekee drops you right into the situations with Spanish speakers all around. There is the option of English subtitles which can be beneficial to some kids.
  • Nice accent. The actors all spoke Spanish well with a very natural pronunciation. It was easy to understand them and imitate their words.
  • Enjoyable pace. Not too fast, like some other adult immersion programs I have seen. And, not too slow or mundane like some that don’t seem to really help kids learn to converse. Speekee has a good balance of real life conversation and repetition to help a child learn new words without getting bored in the process.

Some considerations . . .

  • More for young kids.While anyone from preschool through adulthood could benefit from using Speekee, in our home it was more appreciated by the younger group. My 9 year old was okay with it, but it was the biggest hit with my 7 and 5 year olds.
  • Spain Spanish. Most of us in the United States would come in contact with Latin American Spanish rather than Spain Spanish. The accent varies slightly and some words and expressions are a bit different. You could think of it as the difference between our English and British English. We can definitely communicate together, but there will be a few differences. Most of the differences in Spanish I don’t think would make a big difference at the beginner level.
  • Needs repetition. Spanish will never be learned overnight. Kids will not likely watch the videos and instantly remember all the new phrases and songs taught in it. However, my kids did not mind watching the same videos more than once to cement the new vocabulary in their minds.
  • Helpful if parent watches along. While I was kind of hoping I could play the video and then go work with the older students on something I found that my younger kids absorbed and interacted the most with me right there. For example, Speekee would say, “Y tu?” and expect the kids to repeat the previous phrase. My kids didn’t understand that and were just sitting watching. Of course, they still picked it up and sang the songs with gusto throughout the day, but for them to get the most out of the video it is best to watch along with them.

Learning another language cannot start too young, and Speekee can be a great tool in drawing and keeping the attention of children as they learn Spanish.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Speekee as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Homeschool Resource Fair

January 20th, 2011

The Beacon Homeschool group has once again arranged a resource fair for homeschoolers in the greater Chicagoland area to share their services and look for opportunities.

Find this annual event at the Elk Grove Village Public Library.

From their website:

5th Annual Resource Fair
Tuesday, January 25, 7-9pm

Check out the many programs especially for homeschoolers.
Arts, Music, Academic Classes, Field Trips and more!

This event is open to all home educating families for free. Come out and browse the many opportunities uniquely designed for homeschoolers including Co-ops, Museums, Field trips, Art/Music/Horseback riding programs, Sewing/Science/general Academics classes, and Services for homeschoolers.

The first 100 attendees will receive a Resource booklet with many more resources.

Click here to be a vendor at the fair.

Homeschoolers looking for resources don’t need to register, just come any time during the open house to find more resources in your area.

TOS Crew Review — Maestro Classics

January 19th, 2011

The perfect cure for cabin fever — something new that won’t let you sit still.

Recently I had just my three youngest at home and we needed something. School goes much more quickly when you aren’t wrestling through Algebra, spelling lists, and creative writing assignments. So, we got to have some extra fun. We built a fort and put this wonderful CD in to listen to. The kids quickly came out of the fort as the music made them fly like birds and then hobble like Grandfather and then skip like a young boy and even prowl like a wolf.

Sergei Prokofiev wrote Peter and the Wolf 75 years ago to introduce children to the instruments of the orchestra. Generations have enjoyed this piece and his masterful creation that uses instruments to truly bring the characters to life. This incredible teaching tool took over in our house and my kids were enchanted with the instruments, the music and the story.

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Product: Peter and the Wolf

Details: A CD of Prokofiev’s well known musical piece Peter and the Wolf including background information on the music and the composer. Disc also includes narration and two tracks of the whole work. In the package you also receive a small booklet with some information and activities for children to do during or after they hear the CD. It also includes information on Russian folk songs and stories and other related items.

Price: $16.98

What we loved . . .

  • Great music. Peter and the Wolf has long been a favorite of mine, ever since listening to it as a child on one of those “big black CDs” as my kids call them.
  • Fun supplements.. The little booklet has some fun goodies in it, and on their site you can even print some simple piano music (and other instruments) to go along with the study.
  • Memorable. Of course the piece itself is always a crowd pleaser, but the arrangement with the narrator was wonderful. My kids talked about it for days and continue to ask to hear it again and act it out as we listen.
  • Gets you moving. While it is perfectly okay to sit and enjoy the piece, my kids just can’t. They have to walk around and “scold” Peter along with Grandfather’s lumbering music. They get down on the ground and prowl as the wolf enters the scene. They walk along as the hunters come in and they listen for the big “guns.” They absolutely loved it.
  • Covers topics we sometimes miss. As homeschoolers we make sure we cover the basics and we also try to throw in lots of extras for fun and good measure. This product helps introduce and create an appreciation for orchestral music. We read, talked about Russian folk songs, did some impromptu acting, and reveled in a high quality musical production.
  • A great teacher. This could also be a great CD to put in for the kids to listen to when you have something else to take care of, or need to work with one child while keep others productively engaged. Without any effort on your part they cannot help but learn where this piece came from, some of the instruments in the orchestra, and enjoy some orchestral music.

Some considerations . . .

  • Only one booklet.My kids weren’t too concerned about the booklet, but they did take a look through it. If you have a child that likes to have something in his hands while listening that could be an issue.
  • That’s it. I can’t tell you much else that I think you would need to consider before purchasing. This is a great product that can be enjoyed repeatedly by a wide range of kids.

Peter and the Wolf is a treasure that kids should not make it through childhood without experiencing. It has so much to teach in a fun way. Listening to it again was like spending the morning with a childhood friend. Such a great addition to our home listening library.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Maestro Classics as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Fermilab Open House

January 16th, 2011

Fermilab Family Open House

Sunday, February 27, 2011

1:00–5:00 PM

Directions to Fermilab

Last year we attended this fun event as a family and the kids did not want to leave. It’s fairly simple without a lot of glitz and glamor, but if you have a science buff in your house, they will love all the hands on discoveries to be made. Last year we did not register for the tour, but if we make it this year I hope to get that in as well.
Some of you might be familiar with them for their Dr. Freeze presentations, or their educational resource center that is open almost daily, or their newsworthy scientific research. Whether you are familiar with them or not, this free event to get to know them a bit better has something for everyone to enjoy. It was well attended last year, so prepare for a crowd, but it was worth the trouble for our family.
Family Open House

Brookfield Zoo free days

January 11th, 2011

Brookfield Zoo is a great field trip destination even in the winter months. They also have an abundance of free days in the next couple months. I like to look for warmish days that fall on these free days and enjoy some great outdoor time with my kids. The zoo offers plenty of educational content for a day of learning outside of your home “classroom.”

Even on free days you should plan on paying for parking, but general admission is free on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. You can also enjoy the Children’s Zoo and the Hamill Family Play Zoo every day of the week the rest of January and through February for free. The Family Play Zoo has some great indoor activities especially geared toward younger kids that can be a great way to enjoy the zoo even on a colder day.

Check the forecast and make some plans to enjoy the animals in their winter habitats.

View the press release from the zoo with all the details.

TOS Crew Review — Easy Classical

January 10th, 2011

The demands on homeschool mother’s schedule are many and I enjoy finding products that make our life a little easier. The company Easy Classical has worked to put together a number of schedules to help homeschoolers incorporate more great materials into their school days.

They offer schedules for specific grades, subjects, and topics. Their schedules are thorough and offer abundant information. They do require additional purchases as they do not include the books you actually read, but merely provide book lists that their schedules incorporates. Most of the books you could either view online, order through CBD, or borrow from your library or Interlibrary loan.

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Product: Early Modern History Schedule

Details: A thorough year-long schedule including book lists of history texts and read alouds, quizzes, activities, and tips to get the most out of this year of study

Price: $29.95 for downloadable product. Or, $35.95 if  you would prefer a physical product shipped to you.

What we loved . . .

  • Loads of resources. This is far more than just a couple page schedule to get you through the information in a year. They have gathered some great titles and put them into bite sized pieces for an educationally rich year of history study.
  • Favorite titles. Although I don’t recognize every book that they recommend I do see many familiar favorites and others that I have heard others rave about.
  • Classical approach. Well, I don’t know if I should say we love this, but I know many others would. I lean more toward Charlotte Mason if anything, but I do see some of the benefits from a classical approach. So, that said, this schedule does build on a Classical educational philosophy (hence the company name — Easy “Classical”), which is a time proven method.
  • Permission to adapt. One problem I have run into with schedules is my self-imposed need to do it all. This schedule says at the outset that you should not attempt to complete everything that they recommend. They just want to offer enough variety for the many different students and teachers that they are serving. And, they also acknowledge that life will sometimes get in the way and we won’t accomplish all that we had hoped in a given week. That is of course okay, and they reassure you that they expect that in the formulating of these materials.
  • Age range. It is sometimes challenging to teach a wide age range of students on a daily basis, but Easy Classical is designed to teach kids in grades K-6 and I felt that some of it could be adapted to older kids as well. I would have no trouble using this for all of my learners, pre-K through 8th grade.
  • Look before you buy. By looking through their website and downloading the samples you can get a good feel for this product and see if it is right for you and your family before purchasing it. Sample schedules could be used to give it a trial run in your homeschool and you just might find this product a great fit for your homeschool.

Some considerations . . .

  • Would still require some advanced planning. While the schedule is made out, you would need to round up the books and have other supplies on hand. They make it as simple as possible without selling you hundreds of dollars of books to go with it, but you will need to track them down. They do have a wonderful page on their site that links to all of the books and resources that they recommend.
  • Might not work for everyone. Any time that you find a great product, it will not fit every family. Some kids won’t enjoy the books, some won’t like the writing (which I felt this schedule was a bit heavy on, especially for younger kids). But, you can try it before you commit, so that is definitely not something to hold you back.

I have used schedules in the past from various sources and always get away from them. I prefer book based programs because I get so bogged down and “check-box” driven when I use a schedule. I end up using them more as a book list than an actual schedule. I also prefer oral narration to quizzes, but that comes from my Charlotte Mason bent. That said, I think this is a great resource. It looks easy to use, fits a wide range of ages, and uses top-notch books as its spine. This would be a great asset to any homeschool looking for a quality history program.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Easy Classical as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

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