Sunday, December 29, 2013

December Happenings #3

Here’s another recap of our fun adventures this month!


The kids decorated small trees for their rooms, and they each have their own.  Last year when they got them, they were so excited that they didn’t want to turn off the lights, even after Christmas.  They sort of got used to using them as nightlights.  So they continued to leave them turned on until every single strand of lights burned out on all 3 trees!  So I went and bought new lights this year, along with a new set of decorations for each of them.  Haylee and Hayden decorated theirs right away, but they forgot to help Holden with his.  So I brought it downstairs and set it on the floor where he could reach it and let him go to town with his ornaments.


As you can see, he chose a blue true, his favorite color.  He took such great are in placing the ornaments just where he wanted them.  I “helped” redistribute them a bit when he was done, but he had a lot of fun with the process.  Winking smile


During one of our final school days before our long Christmas break, Haylee and Holden took a short break to enjoy reading Merry Christmas, Stinky Face together on the sofa.  So sweet!  If you haven’t read the series of Stinky Face books, they’re really cute.  They enjoyed this one, too.


We’ve been reading a lot more books together lately outside of our homeschooling because the city opened a new Joint Use Library in conjunction with the local community college, and it’s literally right up the street from us.  They kids (and the adults, too) have enjoyed getting new batches of books and movies quite regularly.  We all love it!


Also before the holiday break, the kids and I made it out to the semi-annual Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.  The holiday sale is always the better of the two sales (the other one is in the spring).  It started at 3 PM the first day, so I was able to pick Hayden up from school and head right out there. 

The kids ended up with quite a haul of books and science experiments to do.  They even got a bucket of make-your-own snow that they can’t wait to make!  I’m so glad they offer a $25 off $100 coupon, ‘cause I actually needed it this time!  Sheesh…the last thing we need is more books in the house, but I can never say no to books.  The kids could be doing something far worse with their time than reading books, after all!


Stay tuned for more details on our December events.

Friday, December 20, 2013

December Happenings #2

Here’s a little recap of more fun stuff we’ve been doing at our house this month.


Holden had a rare treat…last weekend, daddy did some science with him to help me out because we were a little behind from his being sick and also having to go to the dentist earlier in the week.  Daddy?  Science?  YES!  And you know what that means…Holden got to try out an experiment instead of just watching it on the DVD!  ha, ha.  That’s what daddies are for, right?!?


Holden had a lot of fun with this experiment from Sonlight Science K, demonstrating how air took up space and displaced the water from the bottle when he blew through the tubing.  He did this one over and over again!


Then on Sunday evening, I was off to the Holiday Pops concert given by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.  This is always a fun event that ends with a sing-along with the Virginia Chorale Society.  I took Haylee with me, looking very pretty, and my neighbor friend, Valentyna, her daughter, Anastasia, and her mother-in-law who was visiting. 


We had such a great time, as always!  This concert always puts me in the holiday spirit, if I wasn’t already!  It has become a tradition for me.


My front door Christmas wreath was looking shabby and sad this year, so I decided to buy some new decorations and give it a fresh look.  While we watched a movie, I sat on the floor and gave it a makeover.  Voila!  It’s all sparkly and pretty and colorful again!  Yay!


I just love door decorations, don’t you?  I have something for every season…some kind of wreath or wooden sign for every time of year.  It’s just so welcoming!


Stay tuned for more holiday happenings with the Burgess Clan!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Happenings #1

I thought I’d recap some of the stuff we’ve been doing this month in a series of posts.


Our first free Friday of the month, I decided to take the kids to the Orb Family Fun Center in Chesapeake for a little bouncy fun.  I took along my computer since there’s nothing for me to do there, and I played around on the internet while they got all their wiggles out.  They had lots of fun! 


I met a nice lady from England who was there with her kids, and we had a lovely chat about our favorite British foods and where we order them from when we’re craving our yummy favorites.  We had such a lovely conversation, and this helped the 3 hours pass quickly!  Then we were off to pick Hayden up from school at the last possible minute!  I had a free shipping code for the English Tea Store, so that prompted me to order us a box of goodies in time for Christmas while it was on my mind!


We also started off December with some outdoor decorating!  It’s been over a decade since my husband last put any kind of lights on the house for Christmas, and although he showed some promise this year, it just didn’t happen.  This is where having a teenage son comes in handy.  He’s tall enough and determined enough to do it himself!  So here it is…his first attempt at hanging outdoor lights all by himself, with a little help from his little sister.


They had fun with the effort and persevered, despite the endless cold rain they endured in the process.  Go Team Burgess!


On Saturday, I took the younger kids to our community’s Cocoa and Treats with Santa party.  It wasn’t overly exciting…they just did a little peel and stick craft, a pencil puzzle, and had a doughnut and cocoa.  Holden spilled his and cried.  Bound to happen to a 5-year old, right?  Anyway, they got to fill out a letter to Santa showcasing their wish lists and give it to The Man of the Hour himself, Santa Claus. 


At least one of the kids still believes in the magic of Santa, so I had to make one last shopping trip to make sure the wish list items were fulfilled before the big day.  Shew!  Just in time.  Thanks for the extra pressure, Santa!  LOL.


Stay tuned for more holiday happenings from the Burgess clan!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Honoring Hayden

Hayden has been doing so well in his charter school.  For the first marking period, he made the honor roll by getting all A’s and B’s.  The Head of School surprised the 35/125 honor roll students by calling them from class for a special honor roll breakfast!  Hayden was really thrilled to be presented with a certificate and to have the Head of School share a few kind words about each student.  He had 6 A’s and 2 B’s.  We took Hayden out for a celebration dinner at Mi Casita.

The Head of School announced that when the next interim report card came out on December 12th, all the students who had nothing below a C would be treated to a pizza party at school on the 17th.  Interim report cards came out yesterday, and Hayden had 7 A’s and 1 B!  How great is that?

In addition, she said that all students who remain on the honor roll all year will be treated to a big surprise at the end of the year.  Holden told me right then that his goal was to stay on the honor roll.  I want to support him any way I can to help him reach his goal!  It’s so great to see him with some motivation again, setting his own goals and working hard to reach them. 

Over and over again, I’m seen proof that this was the right direction for Hayden.  This was such a positive step for him.  I really see him improving his study skills and getting himself on track for success.  He even asked to go to the library with Steve the other night so he could take his books along and study for two quizzes he would be taking the next day.  That was impressive!  And when he took the quizzes, he said he felt really confident that he had done well.

Hayden loves his Design Technology class.  It’s a really unique class for the students to work on digital design, and they can even manufacture the products they design using a 3-D printer.  Sadly, most of the kids goof off in the class and don’t accomplish much.  Hayden gets frustrated working on group projects, because he really enjoys the class himself, and it’s hard to have to tolerate others bringing down your grade because they don’t contribute anything.  Finally, he got paired this week with the two students who made the Principal’s List (for straight A’s).  He told me that as much as he loved the class before, now he likes it 3 times better because he is working with students who work at a quick pace like him, and they aren’t wasting any time.  They are so far ahead that the teacher told them they could work on a special project assignment if they finished up super early, so Hayden is really looking forward to that!

All this to say that things are going really well at school for Hayden.  I was selected as one of 3 parents to participate on the Planning Council for the school, so I’ve been attending those meetings and participating in brainstorming sessions on things like potential community service opportunities for the students and ways to meet the schools goals for students.  I love having the opportunity there to interact with the Head of School and some of the teachers.  I like feeling like I’m still able to be involved in the direction of Hayden’s education.

Go Hayden!!!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Preparations

I always enjoy hosting Thanksgiving dinner and inviting friends and extended family who have no other family around with whom they can celebrate the occasion.  We had just one couple this year, as many of our usual guests were out of town this year. 

Despite the smaller guest list, I still made all the usual goodies!  We had turkey breast cooked in the rotisserie, sliced smoked ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, homemade dinner rolls, homemade whole cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, fruit salad, and pumpkin trifle.  Our guests also brought a blackberry cobbler and ice cream!  In addition, I had 5 kinds of sparkling juices to choose from, and I made a crock pot of mulled apple cider.  Yum!  The smells were wonderful!

I love making things from scratch.  I have never made homemade whole cranberry sauce before, but I had a coupon for the cranberries and found them on sale, and then I spotted the recipe on the back.  It turned out to be less expensive than buying canned sauce, so I figured I’d give it a shot…the recipe looked super simple!  I’ll share the steps here:Cranberry 1

  • Start with a 12 oz. bag of whole fresh cranberries, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup water. 
  • Boil the sugar and water until dissolved. 
  • Then add the cranberries and return to a boil. 
  • Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.          Cranberry 2
  • Pour into a bowl or dish and cover to cool completely at room temperature. 
  • Once cooled, place in refrigerator until ready to serve. 

It was delicious!  If you like it jellied, just mash the cranberries before cooling.

RollsI always make dinner rolls from scratch.  They are a favorite of my own family and my regular guests.  One batch makes 16 rolls, but it’s getting so that I almost need to make two batches to keep everyone happy!  The recipe is fabulous, but I’ll post it another time.  I found it in the Betty Crocker Bread Machine Book.Mulled Cider Ingredients

I started making mulled cider last Christmas.  I fell in love with wassail cider when I started going to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens.  It was the best part of the trip!  I could drink it non-stop when I’m out in the cold!  It’s so festive, and I love the spicy flavors in it.  I began a hunt for a good recipe and found this one.  It’s so easy in the crockpot, and it’s perfect every time!  Knowing that my teenage son and I were going out for Black Friday shopping starting at 6 PM on Thanksgiving and that it was so awfully cold out, I decided to start a pot of the cider while I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner so it would be ready by the time we got ready to go out.  It was a perfect way to warm up on the way!

I love this time of year!  I actually put my Christmas tree up the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving, and I got our presents all wrapped and under the tree on the eve of Thanksgiving.  Awesome!  Now that I’m feeling fat and happy from all the good food we’ve had (which we’ve nearly finished off today), I’m ready to switch gears and get into the Christmas spirit!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too!  Feel free to share your favorite Thanksgiving recipes in the comments.  I love trying new things!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Preparations 2013

So have you begun your holiday preparations yet?  I normally wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put up my tree, but this year, the holiday bug bit me early.  If I’d had my way, I would have put up my tree last weekend, but it was all I could do to beg and barter to get hubby to get it all down from the attic THIS weekend instead, LOL!  It was even late on Sunday when he got it down, so I was only able to clear the spot where I wanted it to go, assemble the tree, string the lights, set up the tree skirt, and put the angel topper on the tree.  Smile  I’m secretly hoping to convince hubby to put lights up on the house next weekend.  We shall see.DSCF0936

We had a little emergency overnight…a pipe to the hot water heater spontaneously sprung a leak…seriously, a braided pipe!  Go figure.  Anyway, hubby was luckily nearby and caught it within minutes of it happening…good thing he made one last trip into the recreation room to make sure he’d turned off the tv, ‘cause that’s when he heard the leak.  So once that was fixed this morning and hubby headed off to work late, the rest of the work on the tree happened first thing this morning.

Next came the other interior decorations, including my extra dining table in the school room.  It looks so festive!

I will wait to decorate my main dinner table until after Thanksgiving…gotta get that pesky little holiday over with first!  LOL.  Actually, I love Thanksgiving.  But I’m in Christmas mode already, so there’s a little conflict there.  Winking smile

So then I packed up the kids and headed off to do my Thanksgiving dinner shopping…I had quite a grocery list and had to go to a couple of different places to gather all that I needed.  We’ll be having turkey breast cooked in the rotisserie, steamed green beans, sliced smoked ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade whole cranberry sauce, homemade dinner rolls, homemade fruit salad, pumpkin pie, and homemade pumpkin trifle.  Yum!  I can hardly wait!  We only have 2 guests this year, so it will be a total of 7 rather than the usual 10 or more.  But of course, that just means more yummy leftovers!

DSCF0937I took care of some other errands like making a couple of bank deposits, and then I took the little kids to Mi Casita for their lunch special.  That was a nice treat!  Then one more quick stop to PAY OFF MY VAN!!!!  Yes, you heard that right.  We now own all of our vehicles outright, and our only debt is our house and our townhouse that has tenants in it.  Yippee!  That will surely help ease the belt a little…getting by has been pretty rough lately with the unexpected home repairs we’ve had this year.  I have to say it felt great driving home knowing it was finally ours.

So now I’m ready to sit down and start wrapping presents to put under the tree.  As tight as things are, I’m thankful that I already have some gifts put up from after Christmas sales last year.  The kids are off from homeschooling this week, and Hayden gets out early on Wednesday, so I’m looking forward to some fun family time later this week.  Hayden and I will be doing some limited Black Friday shopping…probably just at Wal-mart this year.  I’m glad the sale starts Thursday night so we can get to bed and enjoy sleeping in a bit on Friday!

My friends know that my tree is only ever up from Black Friday until Christmas Day, so this is clearly a record that my tree is up the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving.  Everybody take note so I don’t get the Grinch jokes this year…  I’m known for standing up after the last gift is unwrapped and declaring Christmas is over!  LOL.  I just can’t wait to get the cleanup underway so I can recover my house.  Holden’s birthday is just 3 days after Christmas, and we have a big party for him on the first Saturday in January.  My own birthday is January 1st, and my hubby’s is January 7th, so there’s a lot of celebrating going on immediately after the holidays.  I just feel so compelled to get things in order again!  Forgive me…

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I’ll be back!!!!!

It’s official:  I’ll be returning to the Schoolhouse Review Crew for 2014!!!!

I’Photobucketm so excited.  I got up with the worst splitting sinus headache this morning…and then there it was…the invitation in my inbox.  It made my day!  Smile

I have been trying not to think about it too much.  We weren’t supposed to hear one way or the other until perhaps tomorrow.  I’ve been distracting myself with other things and enjoying the banter of fellow 2013 Crew Alumni as they made predictions and teased each other as they waited. 

Then there it was…totally unexpected on this fall morning.  A whoop of excitement and a sigh of relief came from my body almost immediately.  I finally let the air out!

I’m totally looking forward to meeting this challenge for another season.  I hope you all will join me in seeing what wonderful new products The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has in store for us over the course of the year.  Now that my oldest is in public charter school and I just have the two younger ones at home, I can focus my reviews a bit more on elementary level products instead of spanning the gambit from preschool to high school.  I will have one in 1st grade and one in 5th grade next school year, with the 5th grader doing some 6th grade level work, so I should get to spill over into middle school materials for some subjects like math in particular. 

Haylee has benefited so much this year from many of the great products we reviewed.  She definitely learns differently than Hayden did at her age, and the opportunity to try out new products to see what fits her best has been wonderful for her.  Spanish for You!, ARTistic Pursuits,DSCF0932 and VocabularySpellingCity all became part of her curriculum for this school year.  She enjoyed the 20th Century in America Lap-Pak so much that we bought other Time Traveler products from Home School in the Woods to use with our Civil War to Industrial Revolution studies this year.  She has totally fallen in love with Apologia Elementary Science programs like Zoology 3 and Chemistry & Physics.  And I enjoyed Couponing Made Simple so much that I’ve continued to use some of her principles to save money in my grocery budget each month, making it easier to use coupons than ever before.  I could go on and on.  The bottom line is that being on the Crew is fun, challenging, fulfilling, and beneficial.  I get to serve others in the homeschooling community by giving honest reviews that help families make informed curriculum decisions, I get to have a “job” that makes me accountable outside of my own family and enjoy exercising my love of writing, and my kids get to find what works best for them individually without worrying about my own curriculum budget.  It’s a win-win all around!

I’m sharing a photo of my family that was taken at church on Sunday.  You’d think someone was torturing them to get them all in one spot long enough to snap the camera!  LOL. 

Happy fall to you all!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

FREE Christmas Tree Lapbook from Hands of a Child!

For a limited time, you can download this FREE lapbook for grades 3-6 about the history of the Christmas tree from Hands of a Child!  It’s called “O Christmas Tree.” Get yours now!

O Christmas Tree: FREE Holiday Unit Study & Lapbook

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

REVIEW: Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Textbook and Junior Notebooking Journal by Apologia

We were so very blessed to get to use the brand new Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Textbook and Junior Notebooking Journal by Apologia Educational Ministries.



Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics is the latest elementary homeschool science curriculum from Apologia, hot off the presses, and is part of the Young Explorer Series. 

Targeted for grades K-6, this product gives students an introduction to chemistry and physics using a Charlotte Mason methodology.  It covers such topics as atoms, molecules, simple chemicals, laws of motion, electricity, magnetism, and simple machines.

You can take a look at a sample, peruse the table of contents, and skim through the lab supply list to see what kinds of simple materials you’ll need for the suggested activities and experiments.

In all the materials, you can be sure that God will be glorified as the Creator of all.  Help your children see the awesomeness of His Creation by examining the building blocks of our world!

The textbook is available for $39.00.

To accompany the textbook, Apologia offers both a regular and a junior version of the Notebooking Journal.  The regular Notebooking Journal is recommended for students who have mastered handwriting, can take notes, and enjoy upper-elementary-level activities.  You can view a sample of the activities in this journal to see if it’s a good fit for your child.

The Junior Notebooking Journal is recommended for younger elementary students or those students with limited writing skills.  Although my daughter is in 4th grade, she does not enjoy longer writing assignments and likes more hands-on interactive elements, so the junior version of the journal was a perfect choice for her.  You can view a sample of the activities in this journal to see if it’s a good fit for your child.

The activities in the two versions of the journal are very similar, but the regular version does require more writing, so you’ll want to make your selection based mainly on that factor.

Either journal is available for $24.00

I would view the journal as an integral part of the program, and it certainly makes the learning more enjoyable and memorable.  The journals also include a daily schedule of all of the reading, activities, and experiments from the textbook, as well as the assignments in the journal itself.  The schedule is printed right in the front of the journal and is easy to check off as you go.  The suggested schedule is 2 days per week, with 2 weeks spent on each lesson, for a total of 28 weeks of material.



Haylee and I had our first exposure to Apologia’s Young Explorer Series at the beginning of this year, and we loved it.  So when we heard this new Chemistry and Physics was coming out, we jumped at the chance to review it!  We were both so excited to have this opportunity, and we were not disappointed.  Her little 5-year old brother, Holden, tagged along for some of the activities like coloring and watching the experiments.  He listened in on occasion, but most of the reading material was over his head at this point.  He enjoyed joining in whenever he saw us doing something interesting, though!

Because we’d had such enjoyment from the junior version of the journal with Zoology 3, we decided to use the Junior Notebooking Journal this time, as well.  Just as before, it was a perfect fit for my 9-year old daughter!  She loves to color, and she loves working with interactive elements and things that resemble lapbooking, plus she prefers shorter writing projects more akin to taking notes and documenting experiments rather than true writing assignments.  That made this a great match for her!

Using the suggested schedule in the front of the Junior Notebooking Journal, we worked on each lesson over the course of 2 weeks, covering the first 3 lessons during the review period.  The schedule suggests 2 days per week, but since we have school 4 days per week, we just spread it out over the course of 4 days/week, checking off each assignment as we went through.  That worked beautifully for us!

Lesson 1 was called Chemistry and Physics Matter.  After a brief introduction to what physics and chemistry are, this chapter explained how atoms are the building blocks of all things in God’s creation.  Haylee was amazed when it told us the printed period on the page contained 7.5 trillion atoms!  Now that was shocking!  But it was also a good way to demonstrate just how tiny atomsDSCF0874 are.  Then over the course of the first two weeks, we learned about various properties of matter such as volume, mass, density, buoyancy, and luster.  In the Junior Notebooking Journal, Haylee colored a couple of pictures with accompanying bible verses, did a crossword puzzle to check her understanding of her vocabulary words, did some scripture copywork, and made a flap book of her vocabulary words.  She really liked that activity!  The materials were pre-printed in the back of her journal, so all she had to do was cut it out, glue it down, and write the definitions under each flap.  This makes a fun and interactive way to review the material down the road, as well!  We discussed the “What Do You Remember” section at the end of the chapter, and Haylee recorded some of the facts she learned by completing the “Fascinating Facts about Matter” pages in the journal and illustrating them.  In the textbook, there are suggested activities in the “Try This” boxes highlighted throughout the material.  These help demonstrate various principles to the student as they read.  You can pick and choose the ones you want to do, and there’s no pressure to do them all.  In addition to those, the journal also has a page of suggested additional activities to try.  I never seem to find the time for science demonstrations in other programs, but these short activities are simple and usually require common household materials, so they are easier for me to squeeze into our school day.  I tried to do one or two of the suggested activities and the end-of-chapter experiment, and that worked well for us. 

The activity we chose for this chapter was called “Overflow Beans.”  For this, we put a cup of DSCF0875water in a measuring cup and then measured off three tablespoons of the water and put it down the sink.  Then we took turns estimating how many dried kidney beans we though it would take to displace the water enough to reach the top of the measuring cup again.  We took our guesses, and we had so much fun counting the beans as we added them.  I’m ashamed to say we were both way off with our estimates!  We had a good laugh over that.  She had guessed 39, but it actually took 130 beans to make up that three tablespoons’ worth of water! 

For the project in this chapter, we got to make lava lamps!  She was seriously excited about this project!  We already had three empty 20-oz. plastic bottles and food coloring at the house, so we just had to run to the store to get vegetable oil, white vinegar, and Alka-Seltzer tablets.  We mixedDSCF0876 the ingredients in the bottles and watched how the oil and vinegar separated.  Then we quickly dropped the tablets into the bottles and closed them tightly.  We watched the action as the bubbles rose, pulling the colored vinegar through the oil and circulating it through the bottle in cycles so that it resembled a lava lamp!  That was pretty cool to see.  We had to demonstrate the lava lamps to each member of the family as they came home that day, so it was a good thing I’d bought plenty of the tablets!  It was worth watching again and again!  This was a great demonstration of how the liquids separated based on their density, and how once the sodium bicarbonate was used up, the droplets fell and separated once again.  The book told us to hang onto our lava lamps for another activity in lesson 5, so we set them aside.  Then Haylee documented both the activity and the experiment she had done in the journal so we could demonstrate what we did and what we learned from it.  Great idea!  Then we were on to lesson 2.

In lesson 2, we learned about the movement of matter and the states of matter:  solid, liquid, and gDSCF0913as.  We also learned about surface tension, viscosity, and how the freezing point, boiling point, melting point, and condensation point allows the state of matter to change.  In her journal, Haylee defined and illustrated the three states of matter and the cycle in which the states of matter change from one to the other in the “Fascinating Facts about Moving Matter” section.  Then she used cut-outs from the back of the journal to glue on pockets for each state of matter, and we filled them with pictures that showed those states (we printed them from Google Images).  SDSCF0926he also made another type of lift-the-flap page for her vocabulary words, matching words cut from the back of the journal and gluing them over the top of the appropriate pre-printed definitions on the page.  She also did bible verse copywork in the journal and made a “States of Matter Wheel” using some colorful cut-outs in the back of the journal and writing in the definitions again to further reinforce the material.  This was a great review of the chapter! 

For our activity, we chose one where we balled up a sheet of paper and stuffed it into the bottom of a clear plastic cup so that when we turned it upside down, it stayed suspended there.  Then we filled a deep bowl full of water, and Haylee submerged the cup straight down into the water and held it there for a few seconds.  Then she DSCF0912liftDSCF0911ed it straight out and observed the condition of the paper.  She was totally surprised that the paper was still dry!  This taught her that air (and all gas), even though you can’t see it, is indeed matter and takes up space.  I loved the look on her face!  That made my day.  I love it when my kids have that look of awe that tells me they are enjoying learning something new!

Another activity we chose was to put pop rocks in a flat balloon and carefully position it over a bottle of soda.  Then we let the pop rocks drop into the bottle of soda and watched what happened.  The gas produced by the pop rocks in the soda took up space and filled the balloon!  Haylee thought that was super cool! 

We wanted to do the experiment that would demonstrate the earth’s water cycle by creating a mini bio-dome, but the weather was not cooperating.  We had a rainy spell with no sunshine, so we bought the stuff and plan to go back and create the self-contained little world within a lidded jar.  It uses rocks, sand, soil, a tub of water, and a plant, and it will allow us to watch the water be warmed by the sun and evaporate into gas, and then witness it reach the condensation point and return to “earth” as water again.  That will be neat!

In lesson 3, we learned all about atoms and their protons, neutrons, and electrons.  We learned DSCF0925about how they combine to form molecules and how their combinations can create new substances.  We also learned about energy levels in atoms and how that causes them to want to bond with others atoms to create molecules.  We looked at the periodic table, learned about what makes an atom stable or reactive and learned about ionic bonding.  Haylee colored the pictures with the scripture verses, recorded her “Fascinating Facts about Building Blocks of Creation” in her journal, made bonding comic strips to demonstrate her understanding, did a matching activity with her vocabulary words and definitions, worked on scripture copywork, and made a “Building Blocks Layered Book” where she recorded her understanding of atoms, elements, electrons, protons & neutrons, valence electrons, periodic table, and atomic bonds using cut-out templates from the back of her journal to create a layered book. 

For our activity, we chose to build the candy atomic model.  We used 1 large and 2 DSCF0927small paper plates, a marker, glue, some small Gobstoppers, and some Nerds.  We drew one ring around the rim of the two hydrogen molecule with a gobstopper glued to the center (labeled with a plus sign) and one nerd glued to the outer ring (labeled with a minus) and marked the model with an H.  For the oxygen molecule, we drew an inner and outer ring, glued 8 Gobstoppers in the center (4 protons and 4 neutrons), two Nerds to the inner ring, and 6 Nerds to the outer ring.  We marked it with an O.  This completed our candy atomic model!

For the project for chapter 3, it suggested that we bake 110 sugar cookies and label them with the abbreviations for the elements to create a periodic table.  There was no way I was baking 110 sugar cookies for three kids who were making four return trips to the dentist in the coming weeks to get a total of thirteen fillings between them!  But we got the gist of it looking at the pictures in the book.  That will have to do!  Winking smile

We have had so much fun with this science curriculum so far!  Just to see how much she was learning, I periodically reviewed what we had discussed in previous chapters, and I was duly impressed with how much she readily recalled!  This tells me that the material was engaging enough to stick in her memory in a meaningful way.  And what’s more, she had fun while she was doing it and looked forward to working on the journal each time we sat down for the lesson.  That makes this curriculum a winner in my book!  We dropped our regular science curriculum this year during the process of slimming down Haylee’s workload to make it more manageable for her in an attempt to make learning fun again.  This chemistry and physics set fills in the gaps that created, as it covers the electricity and magnetism topics we had planned to study anyway.  But this program is no drudgery, and the work is planned out in small, manageable chunks that make it totally doable for a busy homeschooling family.  I would definitely recommend you check it out!  There is a huge amount of material covered.  It’s meaty, but it’s entertaining, hands-on, and easy to do…something both us can enjoy.  That’s the bottom line!

Check out what other Crew members had to say about Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics by clicking the banner below.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

REVIEW: Online Math Membership and Online Language Arts Membership by IXL

My kids got to try out the Online Math Membership and Online Language Arts Membership by IXL.



IXL offers a great online resource for children to get regular practice with skills they’re learning in math in grades PK-12th, and now they’ve added language arts skills for grades 2-4, too! 

There are literally hundreds of topics available in a variety of categories for each grade level, ensuring that there’s always something new your child can spend time practicing.

Children can select topics in any order, and IXL tracks their progress and scores for you, rewarding their achievements along the way for such things as time spent, mastery of topics, and numbers of problems completed.  The site even emails parents once a week with a summary of how their child is doing.

When you sign up, you get access to all grade levels of the material available for each subject.  This is great for reviewing previous topics from the past and also looking ahead to more challenging topics from the next level.  And if your child progresses through a topic at their grade level, they can move on to topics in the next grade level to ensure they are being adequately challenged.  It also prevents you from being locked out of topics your child might still need to practice, even though it may or may not be in their current grade level. 

The concepts on the site align with Common Core Standards and the state standards for all 50 states, and D.C. 

A monthly membership for a single subject (math or language arts) is $9.95/month, or you can subscribe to both subjects for a discounted rate of $15.95/month.  You can add additional children to your monthly family membership for just $2/mo. per child. 

An annual membership for a single subject (math or language arts) is $79.00, or you can subscribe to both subjects for a discounted rate of $129.00.  You can add additional children to your annual family membership for just $20/yr. per child.



Both Haylee (age 9) and Holden (age 5) tried out the math portion, but only Haylee, being in 4th grade, was old enough to work on the language arts portion. 

Holden liked the math okay, but he wasn’t super excited about it.  He actually did quite well with it, but he tends to be more interested in online programs that have a more game-like feel to them, which this does not, so it was not an activity that he asked on his own to do.  Instead, I had to say “we’re going to work on this now,” and we’d sit down and work on it together.  He’s just in kindergarten, so the idea of adding in something that feels like extra school to him isn’t something that really appeals to him just yet.  But it was great for extra practice for him just the same.

Holden is in kindergarten, but he’s doing 1st grade math this year, so that’s what we worked on.  The nice thing about IXL is that you can come and go as you please, in no particular order, justDSCF0923 working on specific topics that you need to practice at the time.  It doesn’t require a long sitting.  I will say that one motivator for him to use it was the little achievements he got along the way.  He’d work on a section, and it would tell us how many more problems or how much more time he’d need to practice in order to earn the next reward.  He’d often ask to do another topic, then, in order to see what his reward would be.  It would take us to a little grid where he could reveal his prize, which was an image of something like an animal or a toy.  Then he was motivated to try to earn more of the rewards than his sister was earning and to see what his next prize might be.  That was pretty cool for him at this age. 

I did have to sit with him, as he can read but is not a fluent enough reader to read all of the problems.  The site does have a little speaker icon you can click to have the problems read aloud to you and a separate one for answers (available for all pre-K through 1st grade skills).  But having to do it on every single problem would have been a bit cumbersome for his attention span, so I just operated the computer for him and let him point to his answer choice.  That worked out just fine.  As he progressed through the questions, they gradually became more difficult.  At the end of every section, it would do a 3-2-1 countdown and then offer some challenge questions.  He’d get all anxious during the countdown, wondering if he’d be able to answer the questions correctly. 

Haylee tried out both the math and language arts sections.  She is in 4th grade this year, but she DSCF0921is doing 5th grade math, so we started there for math but kept language arts on grade level.  Right away, we noticed how if she missed a question, IXL immediately gave a detailed explanation of the right answer, thereby “re-teaching” the topic, if you will.  So although IXL is not designed to be an instructional but rather a practicing tool, this feature is great for ensuring your child understands the topic and the steps to reaching the right answer.  I supposed if you wanted to use it that way, you could choose a topic you haven’t taught and purposely choose a random answer in order to learn the topic from the problem correction.  But then that would skew your child’s scoring.  In any case, Haylee found it very helpful for the questions she didn’t get right. 

Haylee has struggled with math in the past…it’s just not something that comes naturally to her.DSCF0922  So while we’ve made good progress this year in slowing down and ensuring she understands what she is doing, I love having this as a resource for extra practice when we think she’s “got it.”  She loved earning the achievements, and she liked to see the weekly emails I received showing how much she had done and her level of mastery of her grade level’s topics.  She generally enjoys any online sites that offer her immediate feedback for her right and wrong answers, and the reward system was a motivator for her, as well.  Her assessment of the time she spent on both subjects was that while she liked the math, she absolutely loved the language arts!  She chose to work on that the most. 

The language arts portion was a pleasant surprise, because there aren’t nearly as many online programs for homeschoolers in language arts as there are for math, it seems.  I was so pleased that Haylee enjoyed it so much and willingly used it!  We noticed that the reward system didn’t apply to language arts, though, which she was disappointed to see.  But it’s possible this may still be under construction since the language arts portion is so new to the site.

I was quite impressed with the breadth and depth of categories and topics covered in each grade level.  Take a look at what the kids used:  here is the 1st grade math, 5th grade math, and 4th grade language arts.  You can see each category and all of the topics covered within those categories.  Just hover your mouse over a topic, and a little pop-up window will appear, showing you a sample problem you might find inside that topic.  You can switch grade levels by clicking the grade level tabs down the left-hand side of the screen.  I would definitely encourage you to take a look around and see for yourself everything the site has to offer your child.

Your membership does include full use of the IXL Math Practice iPad app, as well, which my kids would have really enjoyed (they love everything that much more when delivered on the iPad), but it requires OS 6.1 or later, so it’s not compatible with my original iPad.  The ability to take the program on your mobile devices is always a great asset, so if you have a compatible device, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the convenience of that feature.

Haylee worked on a variety of topics in categories such as pronouns, antonyms, homophones, DSCF0920affixes, verb tenses, complete and incomplete sentences, and run-ons.  The program gave her a nice variety of questions in varying forms such as fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, and highlighting words in the sentences to answer the questions.  If she got frustrated with her performance in a particular topic, she was free to exit and come back to it later.  The key for me was that she enjoyed the program enough to want to come back to it later.  And I really liked being able to view her progress and see areas we needed to work on more in the future.  That makes it a really nice tool from a teacher’s perspective.

Overall, it’s a great resource for giving kids that extra boost to ensure they achieve confidence and mastery in their math and language arts skills.  Though lacking a game-like feel that many kids crave, the site does offer a straight-forward, easy-to-use format that is colorful and appealing and offers comprehensive practice in over 2,500 math and language arts skills.  And as a teacher, I like being able to access reports of how they’re doing and even print the achievement certificates they’ve earned.  The reports highlight their usage, performance, progress, and even point out their problem spots, which becomes a helpful tool for me.

For my family, I foresee it being a great activity for my kids to do on Fridays at their leisure when their regular schoolwork is completed for the week.  I love that Haylee can practice and get instant feedback while I’m working on other things, and it’s a nice activity for me to do with Holden in areas where he needs to shore up his understanding.  I definitely encourage them to keep practicing and honing their skills, and doing it at a comfortable pace that doesn’t pressure them.  IXL gives them the opportunity to do just that! 

Take a look at what Crew members had to say about the Online Math and Language Arts Memberships by clicking the banner below.