Monday, 31 March 2014

March round up

I've really felt 'mad as a march hare' this month.

We visited our local museum for our field trip as we wanted to have a look at the weaving history of Yorkshire 

prior to our loom making craft day.

The girls have been to rock climbing,

archery and little ninjas.

Rose has worked on blob mapping the world and naming the continents

and her pink words.

As well as helping Dh dig the foundations for our new extension.

Lilly, Sunflower and Tulip have been working hard on their Rock unit which I'll try and write up for next week.

We've also managed to rehouse a couple of our chickens, build some new veg beds, experienced a not so pleasant stomach bug and attended three birthday parties. The girls sewing lessons are coming on in leaps and bounds - they are currently working on gardening aprons and needle purses which should be finished in the next week or so (keep your eyes peeled).

Friday, 21 March 2014

Myths and Monsters

Our local Ed group organised a Myths and Monsters activity day.

They was a museum display of monster toys (carefully roped off so the kids couldn't touch),

'make your own' mythological monsters,

a sock monster table,

and a reading corner.

Additional activities included making a 'Monster Book of Monsters', making Monster Fact cards, a quiz game and some dressing up.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mango Languages - TOS Review

I have no language strengths, the girls far exceed my capabilities, so when we were offered the chance to review Mango Languages I though it would be a useful programme. Little did I know how much of an understatement that would be : ) 

Mango are probably best know for the Library lessons available in most US libraries. They have created a new programme specifically for the Homeschool community which aims to create a collective of language learning, where you interact with others working on the same language as well as providing additional languages and levels.

We were given access to the Mango Homeschool Edition for a year. We are using the beta version as Mango Languages are improving the scope of what they offer however the beta format alone is an amazing program - you wouldn't realise its a beta when you are using this programme as its so advanced - but they are looking to add to the programme. They are hoping to have added (by the summer) the ability to translate hours studied to an equivalence of high school credits, visual tracking system for parents to view work, a testing program and a pre-test so that students with previous experience can know where they should start in the programme, personal lesson plans, personal goal setting and a portfolio builder.

The first step was to create our account  - parents are responsible for setting up the child’s account, and you have custodial privileges to oversee what your child is learning, how they are progressing as well as testing results. 

Once the account was set up it was time to choose our course from the current 61 languages offered - these include the 'classic' languages like French, Italian, German and Spanish as well as more exotic languages like Dari, Haitian, Farsi, Yiddish and more. For classical students there are even options to study ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin. I wanted the girls to study Spanish, Castilian (yep - you can even choose different dialects) then asked them what they would like to use, they opted for Latin as they have already studied some and for Chinese, Mandarin as they thought it would be interesting.

Once you've picked your 'passports' (languages - your subscription has no limits on the number of languages you can learn) you go various 'Journeys' through the language. For example, Spanish has two units - People and Travel . People has 5 chapters, each containing about 10 lessons. During your lesson you learn via virtual flashcards with a narrator asking the questions and a native speaker pronouncing each word or phrase. They introduce a phrase then ask you to say a specific word from that phrase (you can opt to hear the answer immediately or wait until the 15 secs has elapsed) before moving onto the next phrase - they use a number of repetitions but mix the words up so you really have to think about what you are doing. They also ask you to guess how you would say a new phrase based on the previous words you have learnt.

 In addition there are grammar notes throughout the lessons, cultural insights, conversational tips, phonetic spelling on demand and (my favourite aspect) a voice comparison tool - you can use this to check how you/student pronounce words or phrases and see a graph of how closely they mimic the native speaker’s pronunciation - providing immediate feedback on pronunciation and hear (as well as see) exactly where they are going wrong so they can correct it and have a proper accent.

Latin is slightly different - it consists of  learning while translating various works like Gallic Wars, Phaedrus - the frog that burst, Cicero - Pro Archia etc. There are 10 chapters in the Latin programme each containing a number of lessons which again teach you via virtual flashcards, narrator and 'native' speaker for pronunciation.

Each lesson lasts approx 10-15  mins and is simple enough for the girls to log in and do on their own (I've loaded this onto their tablet and set it as the homepage on the Internet so they just add the password and they log into their lessons each day by clicking on the class they joined. The programme keeps a record of which lessons have been completed and takes them automatically to the next lesson in their queues). Many of the languages also have pdf lesson files that may be downloaded and used for further study.

In addition to the language lessons there are additional features like progress assessments, collaborative learning spaces, calendars, groups, blog space, and you can even email people within the system (don't panic - you can opt to get all emails sent to your email as well so you can easily track what you kids are doing and you can link accounts giving you the ability to log into their accounts to oversee everything. The programme also has a number of safeguards in place and moderators). There are Forums you can join, these offer an easy way to answer any questions you have about the languages you are studying. They also provide students the opportunity to quiz other students who have progressed further in their studies and give them the chance to practise talking to others in that language.

The girls have seemed to enjoy using this, once the account is set up it's easy to use and they have retained Spanish and Latin really well - the recommended age is 6 to adult but Rose (5) has joined in and enjoyed herself.  Chinese has been more difficult to learn but Lilly (11) has managed to learn a number of greetings.
I love this programme because it balances out all my weaknesses - both the girls and I have learnt loads and I'm happy to say that I no longer fear language lessons : )

My favourite aspect is the Voice Comparison Tool - it's like having a personal tutor in the comfort of my own home at my convenience - If I want to learn at 2am, it's there ready and waiting for me. I can honestly say this has been a real blessing to add to our homeschool curriculum.

Mango Homeschool Edition offers a free 14-day trial so you can see how it works for you. Monthly or yearly subscriptions are set at the following prices: 
1 subscription (or one student) is $18/month or $125/year total
2 subscriptions (or two students) are $28/month or $175 /year total
3 subscriptions are $38/month or $225/year total
4 subscriptions are $48/month or $275/year total
5 subscriptions are $58/month or $325/year total 
Anything over 6 subscriptions is a special group rate that will depend on the number in the group.

Subscriptions can be purchased at Mango Homeschool Edition.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Tricks for getting more copwork out of your kids

I like to use copy work to improve the girls spelling and grammar, however I find if I'm not careful they end up copying meaningless, out of context paragraphs.

I found a couple of solutions that work well for us.
  1. Copy out the scripture verse we are leaning that week.
  2. Copy our CC history sentence.
  3. Copy out definitions for new words we come across in our read alouds.
  4. Copy definitions for new science or math terms.
By far my favourite trick is to tell the girls they can earn colouring pages (something they really love) if they copy out two informational paragraphs from either an encyclopedia or a paragraph from our literature read aloud.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Egglo glow in the dark Easter Eggs - TOS Review

When we were asked to if we would like to review the Egglo products, I took one look at their website and jumped at the chance.
Egglo Entertainment have come up with a great way of turning the focus of Easter back towards Jesus. They use the scriptural teaching that Jesus is the 'Light of the World' as the fulcrum.

I received the The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book (and audio download), The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure program guideEgglo Glow in the Dark Easter Eggs and Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls.

We started by reading the The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book, it's a 40 page story about a pair of siblings, their cousin and their dog - it starts with a harassed mother who wants to teach her kids the real meaning of Easter.

I read this book aloud to the girls and they thoroughly enjoyed it - in fact I've caught them reading it to each other quiet a few times since. The audio version of the book is very animated and we used it as a great treat for a drive (takes about half an hour). 

I followed up with some activities from the program guide - this has 60 pages packed full of ideas , activities and resources to help you organise your own Easter Egg Hunt. It's great for both an at home setting or for a larger church group. It includes loads of colouring pages - characters from the book as well as scenes with Jesus and crosses. There is a food section in the guide which would make great snacks for a Easter party - some of the food ideas were not suitable foods for us but gave me great ideas to work with. 

The main attraction for the girls were the Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs 

These are like the plastic eggs we fill up each Easter except they glow. They come in a box of 12 and come in four pastel colours (green, yellow, blue, or pink) six of the eggs have crosses on and six are plain. It is recommended to charge the eggs prior to use. We used them inside (more because when we were using them it wasn't dark enough outside) and they had great fun trying to find them. I filled the eggs with the scripture scrolls but you could fill them with treats or gifts just as easily. Egglo even have a scavenger hunt on their website with clues in the form of Bible verses.

The scripture scrolls are cute and look just like the scrolls in the story. Rose loved these and I've found a few stashed in her various bags and pockets.

I must admit I was very impressed with this activity and have even recommended it to our youth group and primary class. There are so many different ways that these can be utilised (and not just for Easter) they are a great way to open discussions about the Bible, Jesus being the light of the World and the events that took place at Easter all those years ago.

The complete Egglo kit is currently on sale at a reduced price of $54.99 or you can purchase the individual products for;
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide download for $14.99
Glow in the dark eggs normally $11.99 (sale price $9.99)
The Egg-cellent Raster Adventure Book normally $12.99 (sale price $9.99)
or the audio book for $2.99
Treasure Scripture Scrolls for $4.29

These are suggested for ages 4 to 13 but I think they are adaptable for most ages.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

Monday, 3 March 2014

Girls Festival - March 3rd

Following on from our Japan Activity day in January, we decided it would be a good idea to celebrate 'Girls Festival' (hina matsuri) this year as it fall on March 3rd which is also their grandparents wedding anniversary and could be a combined celebration.

Nanny managed to get some cute party favours for them - traditional Kokeshi Dolls.

This lead to a great discussion on traditional Japanese names, how they lacquer wood, what a mizukl tree looks like etc.

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