Sunday, 29 November 2015

You gotta smile when...

... November comes and your kids only want to do Christmas math :)

Seriously though - I wanted to pick your brains and ask what your favourite Christmas lesson resources were, any new ideas would be great.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

When will I ever use this???

I usually cringe when the girls ask me a question like that but thankfully when they asked it about working out cubic volumes I was able to point them in hubby's direction as just one example.

He works testing buildings and he has to work out the cubic volume when doing a building sound test or an air tightness test (see air tightness testing for more info) cue playing with his laser measure and having fun working out cubic volumes - love it when math comes to life :)

Friday, 13 November 2015

Grapevine Studies - The Birth of Jesus TOS Review

I love this time of year because TOS always manage to find a great Christmas product to review which brings the spirit of Christ into our home. And Grapevine Studies doesn't disappoint - we received the Birth of Jesus: Multi Level (7+)

Grapevine Studies have created a unique multi sensory way (hear - draw - review) for your family to study scriptures, by drawing stick figures as the lesson is presented to them and then answering questions about what they have learnt the scriptures become more engaging and really memorable. Its a great way to improve your understanding the Bible.

I received three digital downloads. 
The Birth of Jesus multi level teacher book

This contains the goals, methodology and lesson narratives w
hich really simplifies planning as its all outlined for you (all you have to do is print and provide coloured pencils/pens). It also contains the completed (drawn) lessons - Each lesson consists of reading a scripture verse, stick figuring (drawing) and discussion questions to review. They suggest a weekly memory verse and timeline review, there are also maps and vocabulary to look up in the Bible Dictionary. Their suggested lesson outline is;

Day 1 - Timeline Review Page
Day 2: Lesson page 1
Day 3: Lesson page 2
Day 4: Student Drawing Page


The Birth of Jesus multi level Student book

This contains the printable outlines for the timelines and student pages. the lessons are broken down into timeline, the announcement, birth of Jesus, the proclamation, the Wise Men and Herod and a final review.

The Birth of Jesus multi level Student book traceable

The same as the student book but with traceable outlines

I love how flexible this product is - you can use exactly as outlined without any hassle and little prep or you can tweak to suit how your family works. We used it as outlined mostly but did make two small changes - first they suggested the teacher draws the stick figures on a whiteboard for the kids to copy but I choose to show them it from my laptop, second we printed a space copy of the timeline and cut it up to make timeline cards which we used in our weekly review.

I loved that it covered many topics - bible study, history, geography, dictionary usage, spelling, art etc.

The girls really, really enjoyed this - they loved the drawing and the timeline (and the timeline cards) and its a perfect way to study over Christmas. They even memorised bible verses with no complaints :)

The Teacher book is $12.50 and the Student book and Traceable book are $8 each

You can see what my crew mated thought of this and other Grapevine Studies products over at the TOS Blog.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Question time

One of my favourite aspects of educating the girls at home is being bombarded with their wonderful questions all the time. Sometimes they want to know why clouds don't float off into space? or why grass grows in winter when the rest of the plants die?

That said, there are times and places where these questions prove difficult (like in the middle of the night) so we decided to give them a place to record the questions so we could approach them at a more sensible time.  I drew a thought bubble on a small whiteboard and stuck it at the bottom of the stairs with a pen, they can write down any questions or draw a picture to prompt them, then during reading time we can have a 'question session' where we can look up the answers.

So far it seems to be working nicely and is a great way to sneak in some extra writing practice.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

How do you record your kids work?

I was recently asked this question by a reader and thought I'd share what I do and quiz you guys about how you do it.

For the last 3 years I've kept each child's work in a file folder (prior to that we tried notebooks but they were never big enough).

Each girl is given a folder with a few tabs in which are then labelled by subject.

At the end of each day any notes taken, posters drawn, notebook pages, stories/poems written, experiments recorded, artwork, worksheets etc are placed in a file tray. At the end of the week (or sometimes every couple of weeks if we are feeling lazy) they get the hole punch out and file them away. 

For any of the bigger stuff (model of the pyramids, large art pieces, historical feasts, educational games, lapbooks, trips) I just take photos that I can print and place in their folders.

I also do this for any Montessori materials they use - for example, when they were doing the adverb presentation I took photos and popped them in her folder.

With their 'internet learning' there are often print outs of the lessons available, otherwise I print out a report from the parents page to include.

With 'video learning/youtube learning' they take notes while watching which get included in their files.

So how do you record your child's work?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Brookdale House - Writing Through Ancient History TOS Review

We incorporate lots of Charlotte Masons ideas into our homeschool journey so I was quietly pleased when Brookdale House were looking for reviewers for Writing Through Ancient History Level 2 Manuscript.

Based on Charlotte Mason's principles of narration, copy work and dictation - Brookdale House have created a tool that teaches history, grammar, writing skills, spelling and more all whilst absorbing works by great authors from the past. The Writing Through History Series is set up as a four year history cycle covering Ancient History, Medieval History, Early Modern History, and Modern History. The four year cycle includes 2 levels; level 1 aimed at grades 1-3 and level 2 aimed at grades 3-5. You can also decide if you want manuscript or cursive writing styles.

I opted for the digital download (a printed book is also available) as I would be using it with multiple students. This came as a 384 page pdf covering history from 2640BC to 400AD and includes short stories, poetry, primary source documents and cultural tales.

Writing Through History Level 2 is broken down as follows;

Introduction - This section talks you through various ways to use the product and gives examples of how to introduce narration, studied dictation, copy work and grammar. It also outlines scheduling ideas. It has clear explanations on how to implement the methods and gives an overview of how the methods work including how to structure narration questions.

Chapter 1 - is full of short stories that give real insight into people, places and events 

Chapter 2 - contains extracts from primary source documents including Sayings of Confucius, Ancient Writings by Herodotus, The Categories by Aristotle and many more.

Chapter 3
 - contains poetry both from and about ancient cultures including The Boaster by Aesop, Hymn to the Nile, Moderation by Horace and many more

Chapter 4 - contains folk or cultural tales like The Enchanted Waterfall, The Clever Trick, The Golden Nugget Tale, The Penny-Wise Monkey etc.

Appendix - includes the grammar guide, oral narration and alternative texts from the Bible.

In all chapters, the reading selection is followed by a practise model and multiple copy work pages. 

I chose to schedule this to three days a week (part of the beauty of this product is you can schedule to suit you) I would print the selected sections over the weekend so that on Mondays they would read the story, answer narration questions and narrate it to me in their own words which they then had to write on their narration page. Tuesdays focused on the copy work and dictation, while on Wednesdays we looked at grammar and additional copy work. I chose to set this up as group work and it worked really well across the different ages. Sometimes I read it to them and other times they would read it to the group then the reader asked narration questions to the group before they would go off to do their individual writing activities. It would also work perfectly well as an individual lesson where the child would read you the story, then narrate it in their own words before doing the copy work and writing.

I loved how the versatile this is; I can choose the history lesson that ties in with what we are currently studying, choose who does the reading, I can choose how to schedule our week, choose to assign it as group work or individual work and I can choose what to include or not include - basically I can tailor this to fit our needs. I love flexible products : )

The four girls (ages 6-13) all loved the cultural/folk tales the best and it was hard to get them to stop at just one, they were quiet happy to do more writing if it meant they could have more stories.

Level 1 is designed for grades 1-3, and Level 2 is for grades 3-5 and is available for $22.95 (or $30.95 for the printed book).

You can see what my crew mates thought of this and other Brookdale House products over at the TOS Blog

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Lilly is feeling a little contemplative this week and came up with a great poem.

When people map the cities, we are the size of pinpricks
When people map our world, our cities are the size of pinpricks
When people map our galaxy, the planets are pinpricks
When people map our universe, the galaxies are pinpricks
The universe is ever expanding - so how big will we end up?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

You gotta smile when...

...your kids decide your greenhouse is the safest place to keep their new pet snails 'cause there's loads of food for them mummy'

Think I may try turning worm world into snail world instead.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Two of the review companies have offered discounts for my readers.

The first is from unlock math offering $50 off the annual purchase

The second is from Fascinating Education and they are offering  a 50% discount up to December 31, 2015.   Use coupon code 2015REVCREW – this code will provide a discount of 50% on any one course OR any of the combination of courses.

You can read my reviews of Unlock Math and Fascinating Education if you want to know more about how they work.

Review pockets

I've been loving the weekly review elements from our classical conversations work but bemoaning the topics it doesn't cover, this lead me to put together my not so little pet project.

I found some tiny pocket folders in Rymans that were just the right size for index cards then sat down and wrote a number of index cards.

I decided on spelling (or blends for Rose), Latin vocabulary, Spanish vocabulary, math, English kings and queens (because the cards were sat gathering dust on my shelf) and science - I know CC does do science review but I wanted to add extra to refresh topics we covered last year.

The idea is they spend a 10 min slot each day answering the questions on the cards, they can either do this with me or a sibling but if needed they can do it on their own as the answers are on the back of the cards.

It has taken a while to write the cards out but it seems to be worth it as its working well.

Glow Stick update

Just a quick note for those interested -Tulip and Rose's plan to make long lasting glow sticks by placing them in cold water in the fridge during the day worked.

Those babies were still glowing 4 days nights later : )

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Speedy chemical reactions

In science this week we were looking at how chemical reactions are affected by heat.

To prove our point we started with two identical glow sticks, we placed one in a cup of hot water and one in a cup of cold water - within a few minuets we could easily see that the hot glowstick was much brighter.

We allowed them both to adjust to room temperature then popped one in the freezer for just over an hour. Which again showed that the cold stick was less bright because the reaction was slowing down.

We then decided to see if heating the vinegar would make a difference to our soda and washing up liquid explosions - lots of messy fun.

Going to bed the girls decided to put the glowsticks in a glass of cold water on their shelf, when I asked why Rose responded 'cause it will last longer'. Glad to see the lesson stuck :)

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Fascinating Education Biology - TOS Review

I loved reviewing the Chemistry programme from Fascinating Education last year, so was very pleased when the chance to review Fascinating Biology came up.

Fascinating Education is an on-line curriculum that uses audio-visual techniques to teach science in an engaging way. Created by Dr Margulies (a neurologist) as a way to introduce and teach science to those with no previous knowledge - he presents the information slowly, in plain english and following a structured story line. He has created three courses, aimed at middle to high school ages, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, each is a complete on-line science program with lessons, scripts and tests.

Fascinating Biology is an 18 chapter biology course, the chapters include:

  • What is Life
  • Chemistry Review
  • Cell Membrane
  • Take in Nutrients
  • Take in Energy
  • Metallic Bond
  • Growth
  • Reproduce
  • Homeostasis
  • Adaptation
  • Protists, Animals and Fungi
  • Animals
Because chemistry is so important to understanding biology, Dr. Margulies has created a 6 lesson chemistry pre-course that is useful for students who haven’t studied chemistry yet.

Each lesson contains a series of images/slides displayed whilst Dr Margulies explains the concept in a clear, easy to understand manner. Each lesson includes a script as well as a glossary of terms and a test.

The lesson is divided into subtopics, which are displayed to the left side of the screen on a menu bar. This allows you to stop the lessons at any time, recap information you may not have understood the first time around and pause a lesson to come back where you left off at a later time.

The Script comes as a PDF of the lesson, we printed them out and they were really helpful for annotating and making notes on.

The glossary defines some of the terms. This was very useful for the girls as it helped them with some of the harder words. 

The review test at the end is a multiple choice test, there is the option to review the answers if you get too many wrong and then retake the test. There is also the option to print out the tests.

Both Lilly (13) and Sunflower (11) used this programme and I watched it alongside them. They found the lessons engaging and fairly easy to follow and once again I was pleased by breath of knowledge covered.

I was very impressed by this programme, I think its great that he designs the course so you can complete it with no previous science knowledge and I think it perfect for anyone who wants to learn science in an easy way. I think it would have been nice to see more hands on lab type work with the course (the Chemistry labs were great) and I think a nice touch would have been a link to the relevant video clip to correct a wrong answer rather than just showing what the right answer is.

Fascinating Biology is available for $79 for a year’s access (Chemistry and Physics are the same price) and the Chemistry pre-course is $20. You can combine any two courses for $125 a year, or have all three for $175 for two years. You can also see the course outlines and get a free sample lesson for each course.

You can see what my crewmates thought of this, Fascinating Chemistry or Fascinating Physics over at the TOS Blog

Sunday, 20 September 2015

School again

Our school year started again this week (we should have started last week but postponed so we could spend some time on the beach - the joy of flexibility), we took it fairly slowly just to get them back into the habit.

We explored shells (from our beach trip), picked and studied wheat and harvested our fruit trees for our nature studies.

The older girls were reintroduced to their math programs while Rose did some work on geometry. I also sneaked in an extra hundred square for her as she wanted to do a countdown chart to her birthday and knowing it was a hundred days or so until Christmas (thanks people for giving me nightmares-you know who I'm talking too) convinced her to do a countdown to Christmas instead.

For science we just watched some Mystery Science videos and because Sunflower wanted to know why clouds don't float into space we did some reading and investigating. We also managed a quick snail study.

Art was mud pie sculptures - my favourites were the snail with its stone trail and the pig.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Stinky Kid Math - TOS Review

We love finding new ways of learning math, so a chance to review Stinky Kid Math by Stinky Kid Math was welcome.

Stinky Kid Math is an on-line subscription program that is designed as a supplement to your regular math studies, like a tutor or homework helper (just much more fun). It is packed full of videos, games and worksheets

Created by teacher Todd Matia with the purpose of helping kids engage with, understand and visualise math concepts. Todd covers the topics of Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry - you can choose to watch the videos in that order or jump around different topics to match in with your studies (we jumped around).

Once you have logged in you click on the topic you wish to cover and it pulls up the videos, booklets and worksheets for the topic - it also suggests any games which relate to that topic.

The video lessons were a real hit (second only to the games), they are designed to present each concept in a clear and engaging manner. The smart boards and chalk boards in the backgrounds annotate the information in an easy to understand way and the teachers use fun examples to explain. My favourite aspect of the videos were they way they used real life examples as problems to solve. Each video varied in length, usually a couple of minutes long.

The books are basically a written chapter that covers the same material as the video. You can download them or just read on-line. We chose to download as it gave the girls something to take notes in and include in their math notebooks.

The worksheets can also be downloaded . They are a great way of checking the students really understood everything they covered. There is also an answer for each worksheet and they show the working out so if they get it wrong they can see why and where.

The games were the girls favourite section and really helped hone their skills. These were;
  • Geometry Runner –a good old fashioned arcade style game where you run and jump to collect the correct geometric shapes.
  • Geometry Playground – exploring and manipulating different geometric shapes.
  • Shifter – matching shapes and colours by converting fractions, decimals and percents.
  • Math-a-Mole –using graphing points to blow up mole holes on a golf course.
  • Integer Game – a game show where you practise math facts. 

We started using Stinky Kid Math by following their advice and creating a notebook to record information from the videos.

We chose to use it to back up our existing math work rather than following the order so I picked topics to match what we were already learning that day, then playing the videos on our TV (it would have been just as easy to play them on-line but I chose the TV because it had a bigger screen) while they took notes either in their notebooks or on the downloaded and printed books, then they worked individually on the worksheets or played the games.

I was impressed by the content of the videos - they explained it in an easily understandable manner and started everything at the very basics
. I found it worked really well as a group lesson for the girls as they all loved the videos. Lilly and Sunflower both worked on a couple of topics on their own online as some of the algebra lessons were too advanced for 6yo Rose (even though she still wanted to watch 'math TV' with her sisters). Overall its been a popular addition to our math lessons.

Stinky Kid Math is available for $9.99/month.

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

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