Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hewitt Homeschooling ~ State History Notebook Review

My daughters and I have been pretty fortunate to be able to review a bunch of really wonderful products this year as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Just recently my oldest daughter had the opportunity to review Chronicles of . . . A State History Notebook from Hewitt Homeschooling.  What an awesome product! My daughter absolutely loved it. You can choose to do the study on whatever state you want. Being from Oklahoma, she decided that was the state she wanted to learn more about. So she embarked on a great Oklahoma history journey. I have always felt that learning about your state history is very important. We have done state studies before but this one was so much better. Perhaps, I should even add that it was our favorite state study!

Chronicles of . . . A State History Notebook is a 3-ring binder with 100 wonderfully laid out notebook pages that guide students through an entire course of state history.  It is recommended for grades 3-8. My daughter is in 5th grade and did very well with it. She not only gained first-hand information about her state of Oklahoma, but also learned some valuable research skills as well. The notebook has a great introduction that contains suggestions for additional projects and other resources.

The notebook provided many opportunities for my daughter to be creative. The cover of the binder has sleeves, so that photos and/or artwork may be inserted. This gave my daughter the opportunity to personalize the front of it. She very much enjoyed being able to have control over what her binder looked liked.

Also, the pages are printed on a heavy-stock paper and laid out in a old-fashioned scrapbook style. The layout made it easy for my daughter to navigate the pages, add research info, and be creative with drawings, photos and printouts.

The amount of content within the notebook is amazing! My daughter was able to touch base on things, that I would have never thought about had I tried to put a study together on my own.

  • Facts, Symbols, Emblems
  • Geography, Population
  • Industries, Jobs
  • History, Government
  • Miscellaneous, Field Trips, Photographs
Suggested activities include:
  • Interviewing a new resident and an old resident
  • Visiting the capital 
  • Making a time line
  • Reporting on field trips
  • Drawing the state flag, tree, bird, flower, and seal
  • Creating graphs of various kinds
  • Making a relief map
  • Creating a climate map
  • Learning about immigration into his own state

As you can see from the table of contents, this is a very complete state study. We loved that each category is filled with lots of items to learn about and not just the basics. Each page states on the top what the page will be about and then provides a blank spot for pictures, art, or photos and then also has a blank spot for writing a description. Once again, being able to add what my daughter wanted was so much fun. She really felt in control of the study without fear of wrong answers. 

My daughter found a bunch of information on the internet for this study. So while learning about her states history, she also learned how to use the computer to research better as well. While I believe the internet is a valuable research tool, it was also fun to take trips to learn things first hand. For instance, when it came time for my daughter to learn about license plates, we took a trip to our local tag agency. It was fun to watch her ask questions and investigate things on her own. We also drove around looking for our state tree and counting all the ones we found. There is a page that asks for a pressed leaf from the state tree. She also used books for her study. The library came in handy for that. Also, a few months back, a friend of mine brought us some rose rock. It was really neat having that on hand to examine when it came time for her to learn about the state rock.

We enjoyed that Chronicles of . . . A State History Notebook turned out to be very hands-on. It wasn't just about filling out the blank pages. The study got us out and about, investigating and exploring.

My daughter's favorite part was that each category presents new research ideas and room for creativity. My daughter told me that it was a ton of fun to look up the information and learn new things about Oklahoma but even more fun being able to be creative about it.

She learned so many wonderful facts about Oklahoma and even started learning the 77 Oklahoma counties. That will take a bit longer, but I feel she has a wonderful start. She was instructed to draw a map, fill in the counties, and color each one a different color. We laughed that perhaps we might run out of colors and she would have to be creative and make some of her own. I could tell that while it was work, she was also enjoying herself. I know that the ability to put things together like a scrapbook, in her own style, made her more interested in the product and enjoy it even more.  I have enjoyed listening to her sing our state song and try to come up with cleaver poems. There is still more fun things she is looking forward to completing, like making a travel brochure and interviewing a resident. We are also looking forward to taking a trip to our capitol building soon for more learning and research. I know she is excited about adding what she finds to her notebook.

She hasn't finished Chronicles of . . . A State History Notebook yet, but when she does she will receive a cute certificate that is located on the last page of the notebook. I thought this was a fun extra and I'm really glad it was included. I know my daughter is looking forward to getting it.

Final thoughts:

We loved everything about Chronicles of . . . A State History Notebook! It is such a fun study.  I feel that this study could be tailored for each student using it. I do believe that older children could do the study independently, while younger children would need help researching and perhaps writing. I really felt that because of the way it was set up, there really was no wrong way to complete it. While it does take time to complete the study, each child doing the study can be as creative and unique with their research and answers as they want. I loved that my daughter could take as little or much time on a subject as she wanted and that she learned a ton of interesting things. 

I absolutely love creating our own curriculum, but like I stated before, I don't believe I could have put together a study on my own like this. Chronicles of . . . A State History Notebook does a fantastic and thorough job of covering the many aspects of the state and its history. I'm extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to do this review.

You can currently purchase this awesome notebook for only $19.95

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Random 5 on Friday ~ July 25th

1) We recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Arkansas. It is so beautiful there. We began by digging for diamonds, then headed north to Beaver Lake. We rented a cabin and boat. We used the rest of the time to relax. It was a wonderful trip and can't wait to go back. My favorite part was sitting at our cabin and watching the fog roll down the White river. Absolutely serene!

2) We close on the house we are buying in 6 weeks. I'm so excited!

3) My oldest daughter turned 11 years old yesterday. I'm so blessed to be her mom. She is so goofy and fun.

4) My hubby is very big into racing. He is a wonderful mechanic and loves all things cars. Even though it scares me, I support him. Our daughters and I were able to go watch him the other night. He did wonderful!

5) On vacation we visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I loved it! It was very educational and beautiful.  I believe it's a must see if you are in the Bentonville, Arkansas area. They have the coolest stainless-steel tree in the entrance.

I'm linking up at The Pebble Pond. Click below to check out other great Random 5 on Friday posts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review ~ Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms

I recently had the opportunity to read  Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms written by Mary Jo Tate and published by Apologia Educational Ministries.  What a wonderful book! It's 288 pages are filled with inspiration. I found this book to be not just for homeschooling moms but moms in general. I know that every mother out there has probably at one time struggled with balance in life. This book had me evaluating how I was spending my time, helped me set appropriate goals and showed me practical ways to deal with inevitable interruptions. I was also able to fill out an great pre-book self evaluation. The questions were wonderful and challenged me to really be honest with myself. By the time I was finished with the evaluation, I was ready to start reading through the book's 16 chapters to find balance and ways to flourish.

The author, Mary Jo Tate, is a single, homeschooling veteran of four sons, and successfully runs a home business. In this book she shares her story of how God provided for her and helped her move forward, find balance and flourish. She shares what she has learned on her journey through her inspiring, encouraging words and practical, real-life principles. I found this book to be a true blessing. Mary Jo Tate has a gift of writing in a way that not only helps the reader understand but inspires one to make changes to flourish themselves. 

As I started reading this book, I reflected onto my own life. I started thinking about the many times I have struggled with finding balance, wondering how I was going to get it all done. One of the first things I remember reading that really, really jumped at me, was when Tate stated that the short answer to the question, I'm sure every homeschool mom hears - "How do you do it all?" is a simple I don't, and I redefine "it all." I pondered that! Redefine "it all."   I sat for awhile wondering what it meant for me. Reading on I read - Nobody does it all. Four simple words that really seem so simple, but in reality how many times have I, along with many others, truly thought we had to do it all! There always seems to be this and that, this and more that's. It sometimes gets to be so much, I want to just crawl in bed and come out for dinner, but then who would cook dinner, ha!  I loved reading that in order to flourish, we have to change our mindsets. Mary Jo Tate does a marvelous job showing ways to change mindsets and redefine "it all."  

I loved how she detailed three main categories that circumstances fall into. 

  •  Irreducible Facts - Things you can't change
  •  Non-Negotiables - Things you won't change
  •  Preferences - Things you can change and are willing to change. 

Reading these really helped me put things in perspective. Since I can't change or won't change many things, I was reminded that changing my attitude towards them would benefit my life. I am choosing to move forward with this better attitude and looking forward to prioritizing and changing the things I can. 

I also want to add that at the end of each chapter is a great little area called - Take Action. In this section questions and step-by step exercises are presented. They really helped me reflect and start a plan of action. I think somethings I was able to say "I'm doing okay in this area" while other things inspired me to honestly want to take action. 

My favorite chapter in this book was the What Do I Do Next? Chapter. In this chapter Mary Jo Tate presents seven essential planning tools. So many times I will read very encouraging words that will make me want to make a change, but am left wondering well that was nice, but what do I do now or how will this work for me. I didn't feel this way with Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. I felt that each step and idea was laid out in a way that was doable. I also loved how Mary Jo Tate added that if it was overwhelming, to feel free to tweak them to fit our situations. 

The book also includes customizable planning forms and special chapters for single moms and families who have a home business. While some chapters didn't pertain to my situation, I still found them to be very encouraging and a wonderful read.

Every time I would read something and have a "ah ha" moment, I would place a sticky to mark it. I finally realized that perhaps a highlighter would also work, because I seriously would probably have a sticky on each page. I was truly amazed at the amount of encouraging material. I loved it! I needed to read it and I feel blessed that I was able to. I know that this is a book that I will come back to time and time again.                                                                                                              
I believe Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms would benefit all mothers. I hope that if you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or perhaps just need a little balance in your life, that you would pick up a copy of this book. I believe you will be just as blessed by it as I was. 

You can currently order a copy for only $15.

In my opinion this is a wonderful price! The amount of encouragement and real-life principles in just the first chapters alone, make it worth it to me. 

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Arkansas Family Vacation - The Crater of Diamonds State Park

If our family needed anything lately, it was for sure some time together away from the house. As a homeschooling family we spend a good amount of time learning together at home. It's fun and we love it but every now and then it's awesome to explore the world and learn together away from the house as well. We just arrived back home from a wonderful family vacation. We went to the beautiful state of Arkansas. We had drove through before but had never stopped to visit. We are so glad we did. It was relaxing, fun, and educational. I'm glad we had the opportunity to take the trip and we are looking forward to returning sometime in the future. Today I will be sharing about our first stop.

Our first stop on the trip was The Crater of Diamonds State Park to look for some diamonds. Did we find any? Well no, but we did enjoy ourselves and would love to go back. The Crater of Diamonds State Park is located right outside of Murfreesboro, Arkansas. They offer a wonderful Teacher's Guide that is very educational. It teaches the history and can also help you plan a trip. Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond-producing site in the world that is open to the public. It would have been so neat to find a diamond. It takes a bit of knowledge to know what to look for. At one point we thought we found a tiny one, only to discover it was a tiny piece of quartz. They do offer education presentations throughout the day and have very helpful staff in place to help identify and educate.

They also have a wonderful campsite that we stayed the night in. It only cost us $13.00. We were pretty impressed with the price and the beauty of the campsite. They also had a wonderful bath house across the path from the site.

It was so fun to pitch a tent with the kids and enjoy the great outdoors. We enjoyed sitting around the camp fire in the evening and making s'mores. In the morning we fixed yummy breakfast burritos and started packing up to head on the our next part of the adventure.

We found camping to be quite enjoyable and a great bonding experience. It was nice to see everyone work to together to make things run smoothly. Memories were made.

Have you been to The Crater of Diamonds State Park? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. Thinking about going and have questions? Feel free to shoot us a comment or email us.

Stay tuned to learn more about our trip. We will be sharing more soon. 

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Learning Experience - Sand Plum Jelly Experiment

It's the time of year where the wild sand plums are ready to be picked. In our area it's not hard to drive down a road and find them growing wild along the fence lines. We decided to take an evening to gather up as many as we could, to try our hand at making some yummy sand plum jelly. What an experience! I must admit, we attempted and jelly is not what we got. It was indeed a fail. We instead ended up with sand plum syrup. Very, very sweet sand plum syrup. It's funny, I messaged a friend who makes it and asked her how long it takes to set up. Her reply was short and sweet. It said "You have syrup, don't you?" ummm... Yep. Apparently it wasn't her first rodeo. I honestly think we used too much water and sugar. I did package them up very nicely though with some great FREE printables I found on Pinterest. I'm not upset, we can use it on our pancakes and it was a learning experience.
We will also try again soon. In the meantime, I have found some recipes and I thought I would share them here, for anyone wanting to attempt themselves.

Let's us know how it worked out for you. We would love to hear from you! 

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Moving Beyond The Page ~ Tornado & Amazing Weather ~ Review

Are you fan of unit studies?

Unit studies are some of our favorite studies. We love them because you can learn so much and they can be really hands-on. That's why we were so excited that we recently had the opportunity to review a Language Arts Package - Tornado and a Science Package - Amazing Weather from Moving Beyond the Page. Moving Beyond the Page is a fantastic company that sells complete curriculum, but they also sell individual units so you can customize your studies or supplement a curriculum you are currently using.

We were able to pick two individual units from a fantastic list. The reason we choose Tornado and Amazing Weather is because we live in what is essentially known as tornado valley. I figured these studies would be wonderful for us and I figured right! They were more than I had anticipated and we are very thankful we had the opportunity to learn using them. The two units can be done separately but were designed to compliment each other. We choose to do both of them at the same time. Both units are recommended for ages 7-9 and they include everything you need for a full study. This was fantastic, as it really made doing the lessons stress free.

Language Arts

The Tornado Unit included:
  • An Online Tornado Teacher's Guide
We received the online teacher's guide for the language arts unit. It includes all of the lesson plans, and you can print the PDF worksheet pages as you need them or all from the start. You also have the opportunity to save them in a file. I choose to print them all and place them in a folder so I would have them ready as they were needed. This worked well for us.
I felt that the lessons were laid out nicely and I loved how they gave you an idea of how many days a lesson should take. I didn't worry though when a couple times we took three days instead of the suggested two.  I love that these can be customized to your child's needs. I also really appreciated that they also include a page that shows what a typical days use looks like. Although, I did appreciate being able to work at our own pace.

Lesson 1: Weather on the Farm (2 Days)
Lesson 2: The Storm (2 Days)
Lesson 3: The Tornado
Lesson 4: A Card Trick
Lesson 5: Turtles (2 Days)
Lesson 6: The Best Pet Award
Lesson 7: Conflict
Lesson 8: The End of the Storm (2 Days)
Lesson 9: Plot
Final Project: Think-Tac-Toe

I found the online lessons easy to navigate and liked that they were checked off as they were completed. They can also be accessed from a tablet. Having this option is very nice, especially for the family on the move.

My favorite part of the online lessons is that in the lesson there is a button called IdeaShare. If other parents/teachers have submitted ideas for that particular lesson, there is ideas and links to check out. I found a bunch of fantastic ideas using IdeaShare. Some I tried and others that were just as great but just didn't get around to doing.

One con to the online lessons is you only have 90 days to complete the unit from the day you activate it. So if you would like to revisit a lesson in the future a physical copy would be more ideal.
  • Tornado by Betsy Byars
This book was fantastic! I loved how each chapter is broke down with a worksheet for question and answers. I felt that this really helped us retain what we were reading. The story is about a dog and his friend, a young boy, that meet during a tornado, hence naming the dog Tornado. The boy develops a great bond with Tornado. My daughters were thrilled with the book and at times had a problem stopping for the day. We also had the opportunity to learn more about life on a farm and what a tornado is capable of doing. I liked that it was easy to read and that the print was large. Another great thing about this book was the dog, Tornado, looks a lot like our black lab, Cujo. My daughters could really relate to the bond the boy felt with Tornado.

  • (A Little Golden Book) How the Turtle Got Its Shell - Tales From Around the World 
 Another fantastic book and a great opportunity for us to learn more about turtles. We had a lot of fun doing research about turtles during this study. We now even have a pet turtle. My daughter even made a turtle out of boxes and insisted he watch a show about turtles with us. It was pretty cute.


The Amazing Weather Unit included:

  • Amazing Weather - Physical Teacher's Guide Book
The Teacher's Guide is a spiral bound book with lesson plans and student activity pages. We found the activities to be very educational and hands-on. We had a ton of fun doing the activities and a favorite of ours was creating a weather vane. Other examples of hands-on activities we did, was making a barometer, a tornado in a bottle, recording temps and rainfall. Recording rainfall couldn't have came at a better time. We live in an area that has been in a serious drought for some time. We just recently starting receiving a good amount of rainfall. I have to admit, it felt good to be able to complete this activity.   

Lesson 1: Whatever the Weather
Lesson 2: Heat and Temperature (2 Days)
Lesson 3: The Wind (2 Days)
Lesson 4: Precipitation (2 Days)
Lesson 5: Wild Weather
Lesson 6: Geography and Weather (2 Days)
Lesson 7: Reason for the Season
Lesson 8: Habitats and Weather
Final Project: Weather Report

One con to the physical copy is that the pages cannot be copied. However, you can buy a separate set of student activity pages if you want an extra or to use with multiple children.

  • On the Same Day in March - Written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Frane Lessac
This book was a great addition to our weather study. It is beautifully illustrated and we loved how the author describes the many different types of weather, agriculture, geography and cultures from all around the world

  • DK - Eye Wonder - Weather
Another great addition to the unit. This book was used when learning more in depth on a particular subject. It was nice to be able to open to a certain page to gain more knowledge and the illustrations were fun and eye catching. It was also easy to read.

  • Boiling Point Thermometer
This was used during an activity, where my daughter had to record a daily temp. I thought it was great that it was included and my daughter enjoyed learning to read it as well.

Final Thoughts 

Both units were filled with fun activities to do and learn. There was never any dull moments with these units. Both units were thought out and put together so well. I really loved not having to plan, but just do. I did feel that some of the writing activities were a bit hard for my daughters, but we were able to change things to make it work. Sometimes by drawing and other times by having them tell me, me write it, and them copy it. The thing is, it worked for us. That's what I loved about both units.  Overall, we had a ton of fun learning about the many different subjects and I would highly recommend them to someone looking for a unit that requires little planning and lots of fun learning.  I will definitely keep Moving Beyond the Page in mind when I'm looking for units in the future.

What do these Individual Units cost?

Language Arts Package - Tornado -  Physical Unit is $24.97 and the Online Unit $20.91

Science Package - Amazing Weather - Physical Unit is $36.97 and the Online Unit $32.91
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