Snow Unit Study & Pine Trees from Creation Illustrated: A TOS Crew Review

Creation Illustrated Our family has a traditional boxed curriculum we use regularly, but every few weeks we need to do something different. We need a change of pace so we don’t become too routine or bored with what we are working through. I love using unit studies for this purpose. I was incredibly excited to use two unit studies (Snow Unit Study and Pine Trees) from Creation Illustrated for my girls. Rose (12) and Beth (10) worked through these studies and enjoyed them very much!    My favorite part of these studies was the Scripture study. I really like that there is a list of Bible verses for the kids to look up and see what the Bible had to say about the particular subject matter studied.   

 Rose (7th grade) – Pine Trees
Creation Illustrated Unit Study Pine TreesFall 2017, Vol. 24, No. 3Rose worked through the study on pine trees. She used the Fall ’17 Digital Edition of  Creation Illustrated for her study. Throughout this study She learned about the intricicies of these majestic trees. Living in North Carolina this was the perfect time to study this particular tree. We are observing their rather annoying explosion of yellow pollen currently, but understanding them better makes it a little less annoying!   The Bible portion of this study had Rose determine whether the reference was to a pine tree or a fir tree. The explanation of the Hebrew word was incredibly interesting and helpful in understanding the verses better. She loves learning about biblical languages anyway, so I liked this a lot.   

Beth (5th grade) – Snow
Winter 2018, Vol. 24, No. 4Creation Illustrated Unit Study Snow Beth worked through the study on snow. She used the Winter ’18 Digital Edition of  Creation Illustrated for her study. We love a good snowfall although it can we don’t enjoy it all the time. Beth really enjoyed all of the word activities and I was excited about the mathematics section. This is the perfect kind of study for use when we take a break from the ordinary because its interdisciplinary nature covers everything! 

In the study Beth determined whether the reference to snow was being used figuratively or literally. That is a pretty advanced line of thinking for her, but she completed this section very easily. 

 In addition to learning the scientific information there is also mathematics, a word study, and a Bible study! The world is telling our children to ignore everything they may have been taught about the beginnings of time. We are scoffed and mocked as ignorant at best and deceitful at worst for believing in a literal Genesis account of Creation. We constantly weigh the resources available to us for world-view and perspective. We use many resources which do not hold the same world-view as we do, but when we find something that teaches science from the perspective that God is the Creator, it is golden. This magazine is beautifully crafted and scientifically accurate while maintaining the absolute authority of God and His Word.   I highly recommend this new-to-us resource and am excited to see it available as a digital magazine! Here is a sneak peek at the spring issue! 

Take a look at what my Crewmates have to say! Creation Illustrated Unit Studies {Creation Illustrated Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Review of Historical Stories of Survival Unit Studies

In our family history and literature are the core of our studies. It is always exciting when the two overlap and the girls get to see interdisciplinary learning at its best! This is the case with the Historical Stories of Survival series of unit studies written by Justine Gamble. 
We had the opportunity to review the following two studies: 
 We already owned several of these engaging historical fiction books, but they are readily available at libraries across the nation. They are enjoyable for a wide variety of ages. While they are recommended for grades 3-5, my 2nd grader was fully engaged and my 7th grader finds them enjoyable. If you think your kids are not quite ready for the reading level they also make very engaging read aloud books which would work very well for these units for family learning.
Thanks to these fabulous unit studies, the book is only the beginning! The author has created a fully integrated unit study with varied learning style activities which will appeal to a large age range. I used them as independent studies for Beth and Grace. Beth studied about Hurricane Katrina and Grace studied about the San Francisco Earthquakes. My girls did fine with the stories, but remember they are fictional survival stories of historical tragedies. The idea of death as well as natural disasters and man-made tragedies are explored. You should absolutely take into account the sensitivities of each child when choosing a study. 
I love that the literature is fully covered. Students identify various literary elements and write about different aspects within the novel. This is compiled into a lapbook. Lapbooks aren’t a regular part of our day-to-day learning so the girls really enjoy it when they get the chance to create one. Guided literature questions will assure your students are retaining what they read and vocabulary/spelling lists will help them build their skills with word usage.
In addition to the literary elements there are excellent questions guiding students to learn more about the historical period and scientific investigations to engage the learners in the science behind the disasters. Students will create timelines, learn about the cultural and social aspects of the times studied, and learn about the geographical region of the novel. My girls had the chance to learn more about earth quakes and hurricanes, two really fascinating natural disasters! Hurricanes were especially interesting to Grace because her grandparent’s had just spend time preparing for one that came through South Florida.
Grace’s only concern was if she had to fill up all the space provided. That is the wonderful flexibility of this unit study! You can have your kids write as much or as little as is appropriate. This makes is a great fit no matter the age. She is in 2nd grade, but is advanced because she has a later birthday. Still, she gets overwhelmed with too much blank space on a page. I easily fixed this by marking the lines part-way down and telling her where she needed to aim.
  The girls’ favorite part far and away were the games included! I had the girls cut and prepare the games for each of their units. This built up quite a bit of anticipation by doing it themselves! For Grace’s game we grabbed some game pieces from another game to be our “people”.
They also played together! The really cool part about this was that since each of them studied a different historical event, they spent time explaining various historical facts through the game-play. I never told them to do this, but it was an excellent way to assess their actual learning as I listened to the interaction. I played as well and they loved that I participated! 
In addition to the games each unit also has suggested field trip ideas and several artistic creations which can engage those students who love hands-on learning. 
If you are looking for a new way to spice up your homeschool studies or even just as a new way to engage with literature, I highly recommend Historical Stories of Survival from Justine Gamble. Your kids will love learning as they dive into any one of these studies! 
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of each of these units for use with my family for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide from Progeny Press: A TOS Crew Review

Progeny Press  Literature is one of the most important subjects for me as a homeschool teacher. That is probably because my background is in teaching literature and writing. I love good books, especially classic children’s literature that has stood the test of time. We usually take a very relaxed approach to literature, simply reading and informally discussing the work through elementary school, but I have several friends who use Progeny Press and I was very interested to give The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide (Grades 1-3) a try with Grace. She was eager as always and really enjoyed the study! 

Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The - E-Guide
We took one week to use this unit because Grace is a very fast reader. It could be stretched out longer without any problem, but since I knew she would want to read the short book quickly I wanted to make certain she completed it at the same time she read the novel. I wasn’t sure how she would respond to completing the reading questions because of our typical way of studying literature. I shouldn’t have been surprised that she was eager for “more work” as she puts it. This little girl loves school and eagerly jumps into new learning styles. She seemed to like writing the answers write on the worksheets I printed. There were a couple of frustrating moments for her when she could not find the answer to a question. 
I really love it when resources are available in a downloadable format because that means I can use it with younger children. It also saves shelf-space which is a huge benefit for us. I also really like the option of printing the entire file or a selection of needed pages. Since some of these are for the teacher and some are for students this is a great option when you may be studying the novel with more than one of your children. Please note the downloadable files are for an individual teacher or parent to use within their home or classroom. You should always strictly follow the company’s guidelines and use the material in an ethical way. 
I really liked the reading questions. Some were straight forward and factual, but others were deeper and provided more thought or inference. I’ll be honest, Grace was not a fan of these more thoughtful questions in particular. She is still only 7 and very concrete in her thinking, but it is time for her to be able to delve more deeply and be able to make inferences about motives or emotions. This was exactly why I loved the questions. Not only did they serve this purpose, but they also showed me an area of weakness in her literature studies I had not yet pinpointed. 
In addition to the literature questions which I found to be so valuable, there are a number of other fun resources and activities. There a number of pre-reading activities which are all highly engaging and Grace particularly liked the mystery word work page and the vocabulary word pages. She adores learning new words so this was perfect for her. There are also several post-reading activities and even a recipe to go along with the unit! The easy to navigate answer key is another plus in this wonderful unit! 
I was highly impressed and am exploring some other studies from Progeny Press. I appreciate their solidly biblical world-view and the inclusion of this via Scripture study themed to the novel. It was a great way to help my daughter look at her literature through a Christian worldview. 
There are several other levels and titles my Crewmates have reviewed including Charlotte’s Web E-Guide (Grades 4-6), The Silver Chair E-Guide (Grades 5-7), and Macbeth E-Guide (Grades 9-12). Make sure you click below to see what they have to say about these excellent units!

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

Week in Review: February 3-7

We’re taking a break from our regular studies for a few weeks to enjoy the Olympics! I rarely take breaks like this, but it’s really fun to do so every once in a while.  We’re using the Winter Games 2014 study from Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett. I used the Olympic 2012 study for the summer games a couple of years ago and the girls had so much fun with that! I picked this one up a few weeks ago when it was on sale and I’m so glad I did. We have had so much fun this week!

Unit Study: Winter Olympic Games 2014

Each day we learn a little bit about Russia. This is especially fun for us because we are praying for a specific missionary family in Russia right now and our church encourages the family by sending gifts for their children’s birthdays. We’e already talked a lot about the country so the opportunity to dig even deeper into the culture and history has been great.

One of the things I really love about Amanda Bennet’s Unit Studies is they are very interactive and include many videos. We’ve seen some beautiful scenes of Russia. We started out with the iPad but mid-week switched to hooking the laptop to the television to get a better view.

Included in the study each day are vocabulary words for the students to define. This study covers all grades in elementary so they could easily learn alongside one another! Beth and Grace printed while Rose wrote in cursive. Grace is just barely printing, but she really enjoyed writing like her big sisters. 
There are some really amazing videos online which are linked right into the pdf of this study. Each day we are learning about a different Olympic sport. One of my favorite features in the “Science of ______” series. Learning the physics behind why a hockey puck spins as it does and how bobsleds are made is fascinating. We’ve also been learning about some of the American athletes along the way. 
When we first told the girls we were going to learn about bobsledding on one of the days Grace asked, “What is THAT?” Beth sweetly explained it is when you decide to go sledding and make sure you have someone named Bob to sled with you! Silly girls…
After watching how the bobsledders jumped into their sled Grace told me she knew exactly how they did it and started practicing. She for some reason thinks they dive in head-first it seems! They’ve really enjoyed watching the replays the following morning of their favorite sports since they are on way to late to stay up for each night. 
Everyone has been anxiously anticipating the Winter Olympics since our rare snowfall a couple of weeks ago! They are extremely interested in bobsledding and snowboarding now! 
Math: Math Mammoth
So we made a major shift in math this past week. We are officially a Math Mammoth family now! It was motivated by two factors. The first was that I reviewed some of the units from Math Mammoth for The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew last year and thought very highly of this company. The second was an amazingly good deal I found online. I always run math curriculum choices by my husband because he has a better feel for math and I trust his judgement on whether a program is a good choice or not. So after his okay, we made the plunge and now have math covered for the rest of elementary. 
Beth was the first to start since she finished up her old 1st grade math book last week. I began by giving her the 1st grade unit test to see if there were any areas we needed to cover more fully before moving onto first grade. As I suspected there were a handful of areas I will be focusing on before moving ahead. Anytime you are switching math curriculum it is wise to see if there is anything which you’ll need to cover in more detail before charging ahead. The last thing you want is to have a frustrated child simply because the old curriculum taught concepts in a different order! 
Rose will begin division this week and she cannot wait to get started. One thing I love about Math Mammoth is not only is there a full curriculum from 1st-9th grade, but also individual units for every concept so you can teach in a different order. There are also review books, practical life applications, and state-themed math units! 
Language Arts
When we do unit studies we always stay on track with our language arts. So in addition to the fun unit about the Olympics and math  they continued with reading, spelling, and grammar. This is also a great way to catch up if we’re a bit behind where I want or expected to be. 
Grace continued on with her reading lessons and is full-speed ahead. Some days we do more than one lesson because she asks to do more. I’m so thrilled to be close to having all three of my ladies reading. 
Beth and Rose continued on with their regular literature. Rose has read more of the Catwings series. She finished the last book in one sitting because she loved it so much. Beth is almost done with the Courage of Sarah Noble, the last of the Emerging Readers books. This one has been more challenging for her and I love how well she is doing. 
Every once in a while big sisters help out with Grace’s reading lessons. This doesn’t always go well, but is usually fun for both girls. Rose and Beth have each taken turns. My only rule is I teach new sounds. My southern girls sometimes are not as particular with vowel pronunciation! I have an accent as well, but I’ve learned to teach reading without it. It has been challenging, but I am very particular about pronunciations now! 
We had an awesome week. I absolutely adore Heart of Dakota, but a break from the ordinary is always nice.

Girls of American History ~ Felicity: Review

Girls of American History

There are very few girls over the age of five living in America who are not aware of the American Girl collection. When I was a little girl I looked forward to getting my Pleasant Company catalogs in the mail and one birthday I received Felicity, the doll I had dreamed about for so long! Felicity still graces our home and my husband sweetly expanded her wardrobe for Christmas one year.

My girls are now at an age where they not only love the dolls they appreciate the stories which go along with them. It is the perfect opportunity to begin teaching unit studies and I was blessed with the opportunity to review a unit from the Girls of American History created by Justine Gamble which incorporates a multisensory approach to learning. Since we already own the Felicity series this was a great place to start. I love how each unit is structured in itself. You can choose to travel through history or simply pick the units you want to study. 
The Felicity study has been much fun for my girls. My oldest two especially enjoy our story time each day. Story time is something I have been making an effort to do more faithfully. Schooling three lovely ladies alongside working part-time has been a balancing act. There are lots of good things I’ve let slide and this has been an excellent way to bring reading aloud back to our day. Quite often the girls draw or color while I read and it is such a sweet time for us. The books are easy to finish in a week’s time and this is just the beginning of the fun!
Unlike traditional literature studies, there is not a question an answer guide for the books. As an English teacher I was surprised by this, but not disappointed in any way. The idea of these units is to engaged children in literature and history through active learning rather than passively answering questions. Student can create a lapbook as they study, there are excellent arts and crafts activity suggestions, and an extensive list of resources for further study on history, biographies, and geography. This is such a unit which allows you to go in any directions you want…or many directions at the same time! 
One of the suggested crafts was embroidering a bookmark. Rose already had a cross stitch pattern started which she continued on with. She has gotten quite good at this!

She also studied about George Washington as well I really how easily it is to add in more history with units likes this. The girls love history already which I attribute strongly to our use of living books. Seeing them excited to learn is every teacher’s dream. 
At the beginning of our unit we took a trip to Williamsburg with their grandparents. It was such a fun time and you can read more about our trip here! 
They all had colonial dresses and were simply adorable. My favorite part of the trip was the tea house. It was so very yummy and very interesting. Grace really loved this too. Since she is only 4 her interest was not as fully with me for the majority of the unit. However, experiencing history and some of the same activities has been excellent for her and a great start to planting seeds of historical interest for the future. 
After our trip the learning continued with more books and more activities! I usually stick to a prescribed curriculum, but it was a nice change of pace to let the girls explore things they found interesting on their own. Beth became very interested in colonial dress and has thoroughly enjoyed coloring in her book and reading about the different styles. Rose enjoyed learning to write with a quill pen and has written a handful of letters and poems using it. She now very much appreciates writing with a pencil! 
Each of these 12 units are intended to last 6 weeks, but they can be lengthened or shortened based on your needs or desires. I love the flexibility of this type of study and think we will look at some more of these to use over the summer. For anyone looking for unique unit studies this is a really good fit and I believe your children will be thoroughly engaged throughout our time with them! 
Disclaimer: I received the Girls of American History Felicity unit in exchange for my honest opinion and review of the product. I was not required to give a positive review. These opinions are my own. 

Homeschool in the Woods’ Composer Activity Pak: Review

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As a music teacher one of the things I lament about my 30 minute lesson slots is that I don’t have time to teach my students very much about the composers whose music they are playing. I might give some background, but there simply isn’t enough time. In addition, most of my students are in traditional schools which do not have time to cover things like music history alongside their standard curriculum. I was very excited to have the opportunity to complete the Hands-on History Activity Pak: Composer from Homeschool in the Woods. This is the first lapbook I have ever completed with any of my children and I was very pleased with how beautiful all of the graphics were. Many lapbooks I have seen do not appear to be as concerned about attention to detail as the lapbooks from Homeschool in the Woods. 

 photo ComposersGroup-SMALL_zps73a0d718.jpgThe lapbook may be purchased as either a download ($18.95) or CD (19.95) and is geared for 3rd through 8th grades. While this is a bit more costly than other lapbooks I have looked at (not completed) I feel this has more artistic and detail focused graphics than cheaper versions. Included are instructions to guide you through the process. I had a difficult time understanding exactly how to put everything together at first. This may have been due to the fact that I’ve never completed a lapbook, but it took several readings for me to feel I understood everything exactly. The printed pages are labeled at the bottom which makes assembly  little bit easier.

Rose is finished up 2nd grade so I helped her quite a bit with the assembly since she is on the younger end of the age range. I had some assembly trouble and accidenitally attached the composers all upside down! I probably shouldn’t have helped her as much because she is a perfectionist at heart and would have noticed this rigth away. Older students should be able to do the assembly on their own.

Rose really enjoyed coloring the various pieces of the lapbook and cutting out the pictures of the composers. This ignited her interest to start learning right away! She has also spent quite a bit of time studying the composer cards on her own which has been fun to watch. We would listen to some of the included music while she did this which also inspired her desire to learn.

I like how neatly the materials were arranged. I could easily figure out what I needed to print from the files and match it up with other correct items. Rose did get a little tired of cutting, but she is a little younger than the targeted age, so I’m sure this is why. I had to remind her that it was okay not to be perfectly cut straight edges. 

loved that Rose was inspired to learn about many different composers, music styles, and music periods. She frequently ran to tell me exciting facts as she read them in the large stack of books we checked out from the library.

I did make a discovery about myself…Lapbooking is not my preferred method of instruction. I have heard the wonders of lapbooking exclaimed all across the homeschool blog world, downloaded numerous freebies to try sometime, and have thought they looked like so much fun. I’m a scrapbooker at heart, so I’m surprised that I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. I think the reason ultimately boiled down to the preparation time. I’m spoiled by our regular curriculum which is very open-and-go. I don’t have to go to the library to check out books, or print a large amount of papers, or spend a lot of time preparing for our lessons. 

Rose did enjoy this study. She likes to learn on her own so lapbooks are a good fit for her personality. Lapbooking is something much more suited for our family for the summer for my girls to pursue their own interests. 

Even though lapbooking in general is not something I enjoy I highly recommend this company if you like lapbooks. They are beautifully done with clear instructions which create a lovely keepsake for future reference. I am keeping our finished lapbook to use with my piano students to give them more information about various composers and perhaps ignite their interest in music history as well!

Don’t forget to check out the other reviews by my Crewmates!

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A Journey Through Learning Astronomy and Space

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I really love our regular curriculum and so do my girls, but every once in a while we need a change of pace! I especially like unit studies because it gives my girls a chance to explore their own interests. It also is nice to deviate from the normal every once in a while to keep things exciting. A Journey Through Learning provides a creative way for the learning process. Through their lapbooks and unit studies students of all ages can explore subjects that interest them and create a scrap-book style resource for use of review at a later date. The Review Crew had an opportunity to review the following products in a variety of age ranges: 
LapbooksLetters, Numbers and Shapes (ages 3-5)
The Earth (grades 1-4)
Knights and Castles (grades 2-7)
Unit Study
Astronomy and Space (grades 2-7) 

Unlike most studies I’ve seen online there are several ways these can be purchased. Purchasing the downloadable versions ($13.00) is the easiest for me, but this is not the most convenient for everyone. The lapbooks are also available in a CD ($14.00), a printed version ($20.00) and an assembled version ($29.00). The unit studies also come in a a CD ($14.00) and a printed version ($21.00). Astronomy and Space photo astronomylapbook_zps68bf09d3.jpegI showed the different options we were given for review to Rose who immediately jumped at the chance to study more about Astronomy! My lover of science couldn’t wait to start learning as much as she could. This study is laid out very simply. The instruction pages are clear and enable both parent and student to begin immediately with little preparation. 

Included is a list of books and other resources to enhance the study are included. Rose opted to focus on one book for further study called The Astronomy Book. It has a biblical focus which fits in with our family’s beliefs. The nice thing about unit studies is you can choose which resources best reflects your individual family’s values and beliefs as well as choosing appropriate reading levels if you are teaching different ages. Another beauty of unit studies is that multiple ages can study together. 
Each topic within the unit has a light page of reading which give interesting facts and information. Following this is a page for students to write down what they learned from what they just read. Rose particularly liked learning about the various planets. I have the order of the planets hanging in our schoolroom and she enjoyed finding out more about them. 

Another section she thoroughly enjoyed was the study of the moon. She liked coloring in the phases of the moon although at first she flipped them all around. We fixed that easily enough and I really feel that she may know them better now. Isn’t there a saying that we learn more from our mistakes? 

By far Rose’s favorite part was making a diorama of space. She started by painting the inside of a shoebox black. She decided to leave the lid attached to make a title for it. Rose loves being creative with her studies. This was a perfect project for my budding artist!
Included in the study is a page of decorations for the diorama which represent various objects in space which we studied. Rose was so sweet to let her little sister, Beth, help her decorate! I let them use some glitter glue to color the items before cutting them out. I asked if she wanted to color them before adding the glitter, but glitter was enough! 
Here is her finished project!

We finished our unit off with a trip to our local children’s museum. It has a very nice display of space travel. Many artifacts, including the craft which Enos, one of the chimps who flew to space before man traveled, orbited the earth. This was such a fun way to close off our study!

If you are in the market for a unit study or lapbook this is a great company to explore. Take a look at the history of who they are. I love that it was two moms, just like me, who had a vision for something and worked hard through trials and adversity. 
Don’t forget to check out the reviews from the rest of the Crew!
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