Thursday, 31 March 2016

You gotta smile when...

... your kids negotiate a 'field trip' to the book shop because it's educational (and not because it's next to an ice cream shop) :)

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Mary Anning

We managed to get away to London prior to Easter and enjoy the relatively quiet time to explore the museums

The girls favourite exhibit was on Mary Anning (they studied her a while ago when we did 'Stone Girl, Bone Girl' from Picture Book Explorers) while they were impressed with seeing the fossils she found, they were more impressed with the picture of her with her dog.

It always makes me smile to see them loving to learn.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

March Book Basket

Sorry for the delay but we were away and I've only just realised I forgot to post our books for the month.

Still reading Life of Fred and The Secret life of math

'The Story of Science' by Joy Hankin

For our nature studies we are reading Enid Blytons 'Animal Lovers Book'

'Monday with a Mad Genius' to continue our Leonardo theme

and we have started Grombrich's 'A Little History of the World'

Friday, 18 March 2016

EdTechLens Rainforest Journey - TOS Review

I have a couple of nature lovers among my girls, so when there was a chance to review such a vibrant product like Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens we jumped at the chance.


Rainforest Journey is an online life science curriculum for grades K-5 designed using adaptive learning management technologies usually only seen in higher education.


I received two 1 year subscriptions for both Tulip and Rose. Each student was given their own log in and there is a teachers account where you can track their progress, grades etc as well as teacher guides and course tips (these are really worth a read as they have loads of ideas). They advise spending 15-30 mins a day, three times a week with the programme but to be honest there were some days my kids were so engrossed that they wanted to finish a whole unit and I had to kick them off the computer.

There are five units to complete, these are
Unit 1 - The Big Picture of the Rainforest
Unit 2 - Adapt or Die
Unit 3 - Animals
Unit 4 - Plants and Fungi
Unit 5 - Ecosystems

Within each unit there are several lessons, for example in Unit 1 the lessons are about the different layers of the rainforest, water and light while Unit 2 Lessons look at structural adaptations, behavioural adaptations and genetics.

Lessons are presented as a page containing amazing photographs, informational text (with an audio option), icons that offer a more detailed explanation or link to new concepts, videos and links to trip diaries from the scientists or interviews.

There is also the option to print each lesson to review as a pdf. You have the choice of letting them work through sequentially or jump around the units as their interest dictates.

Each unit contains 34 lessons and the main differences between the grade levels are in the depth of content included. Units include new vocabulary words, reviews, assessments including open ended essay style questions that are created to really make you think, multiple choice questions, picture sorting etc. and hands on activities. I liked that there was an option to print these out for the children as it was a great way to get extra writing practise in, however these can be answered online.

In unit one the hands on activity was looking as why we have seasons which encouraged the girls to explore the earths tilt using balls (we replaced with apples and oranges cause we had them to hand). The girls loved the hands on additions and have remembered loads of information which they are keen to share.




I loved how engaging the lessons were and how they bought everything to life (especially the sounds of the rainforest), the depth of knowledge taught and how easy it was to use.
These lessons are really versatile - there were days when I left the kids to it and other days where we worked together and used the written essay questions. There were also days when they only wanted to do 15 mins and other days when I had to physically remove it from them because they didn't want to stop.
The girls especially loved the pictures - the photographs really capture the beauty of the rainforest. My animal mad Tulip also really liked the scientist diaries, while Rose enjoyed the sounds and activities.
And did I mention the breathtaking photographs? they use stunning, real life images from the rainforest :)

Rainforest Journey is available from $50.00

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


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Grapevine Studies Resurrection - TOS Review

he girls had so much fun reviewing the last Grapevine Studies we did - it that I jumped at the chance to do another. Easter is fast approaching so I picked Resurrection: Multi Level to help with our Bible Study over Easter.

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 their understanding of the Bible.

I received two digital downloads.
The Resurrection multi level teacher book (age 7+, they do have another version suitable for 3+)

This is an 87 page pdf which contains the goals, methodology and lesson narratives, which really simplifies planning as its all outlined for you (all you have to do is print and provide coloured pencils/pens and have a Bible to hand). It also contains the completed (drawn) lessons

There are nine lessons and the final review, each lesson consists of reading a scripture verse, stick figuring (drawing) and the discussion questions to review. They suggest a weekly memory verse and timeline review so each lesson plan will cover 4 days, there are also maps and vocabulary to look up in the Bible Dictionary.

The Resurrection multi level Student book

This is a 57 page pdf which contains the blank printable outlines for the timelines and student pages. the lessons are broken down into timeline, The Last Supper, Gethsemane, The Religious Trials, The Civil Trials, The Crucifixion, The Death and Burial of Jesus, The Resurrection, The Witness and the Final Review. There is also a map at the back of the book. There is a traceable version available as well.

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. The girls decided they wanted timeline cards again so we printed a spare copy of the timeline and cut it up to make timeline cards which we used in our weekly and final reviews.

I loved that it covered so many topics - bible study, history, geography, dictionary usage, spelling, art etc. and that it fit in so well with our Charlotte Mason Bible Study.
I was pleased by how many details my girls retained, at the end of each lesson is a 'Lesson Review' which includes questions about the lesson. I love that it works across multiple ages (mine are 7 - 13 years).

The girls really, really enjoyed this (again) - they loved the drawing and the timeline. This is such an easy to use and engaging program.  I have been very impressed with Grapevine Studies, so well done for creating such an amazing way to engage kids in the scriptures

They are currently running a special offer where the Teacher book is $14 and the Student book is $9.20

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

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Here to Help Learning - TOS Review

Its that time of year again when I panic that the kids aren't doing enough writing - our school books are full of drawings, maps, math lessons but seem to be lacking in writing assignments. When the chance came up to review Here to Help Learning, an online writing curriculum, it felt like a solution to all my concerns.

Here To Help Learning is the brainchild of Beth Mora, a veteran homeschooler who has a real passion that comes across in the movies.

We were given the online subscription, which has six different levels to choose from, these are paragraph writing Flights 1-3 and Essay Writing Flights 1-3. There are about 32 lessons per flight, so each flight provides a full writing curriculum for the year. You pick your flights based on your child's ability - as a rough guide paragraph writing 1-3 equates to grades 1-3 and essay writing to grades 4-6 but even within a level there are instructions for beginning and advanced students, so writers can work at their own level. You can see the full scope and sequence  so you can see which level would work best for your family.

Tulip worked on paragraph flight 3 and Rose worked on paragraph flight 1.

I started by printing off the teachers guide and printable charts - these were amazing, they included a guide to brainstorming, organisational tips, chart guides to grammar and punctuation, writing formats, word advice, webbing, drafting, getting input, revisions, final copies and publishing, tips to create a writing environment, guides to how to lead a writing warm up and loads more.

The flights start with Beth talking them through the creation of a writing folder using their printable materials and some tabs. Each flight teaches a different topic and there are several writing activities/assignments on each flight.

They advise that each week your child will need two days to focus on their writing skills.

Day one is the online video lesson, these start with a pre-flight checklist (so you can see what printable etc you need), followed by a flight check-in (a discussion of assignments from last week), the take-off includes games and writing warm ups followed by full-throttle which goes on to work through a new part of writing process. You can watch the lessons online and print a scripted teachers guide - the lessons are short (about 4 mins for each stage of the flight), entertaining, funny and packed full of games The kids really liked seeing Beth take on different roles (like air stewardess, teacher and game show host) and reacted well to her engaging style.

Day two
is flying solo, they take what they learnt in the lesson and work on their writing assignment.

Both the girls really enjoyed this but the best endorsement I can give it is that Rose, my reluctant writer, is no longer a reluctant writer :)
She looks forward to using Here to Help Learning and particularly likes the writing warm ups where she gets to write about bizarre pictures. I like how its changed a painful process into a positive experience and has made writing a fun, enjoyable process for her - no more tears.

I like that you can opt to print out a scripted lesson (this proved very useful when our Internet went down for 4 days) and I liked the range of styles and topics covered.

Here to Help Learning is available for $6.99 a month

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

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Musings on why I love home ed

I've spent lots of time this week considering why I love homeschooling - a prime reason is because of the precious moments where their individuality is encouraged not squished to fit a mould.

For example, the first time Rose was introduced to a word sum she felt it warranted a word answer.

I also love their ability to think freely and question. Today Lilly was told we did something a certain way 'because that's how I (the adult) was taught to do it' and she responded 'but what if you were taught incorrectly?' I'm sure that questioning nature will come back to bite me, but today I love it.

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