Saturday, September 29, 2012

Crew Review: Box of Ideas (Salt)

You know...

I like piecing together our curricula from this and that, but sometimes having a unit study all boxed up and ready to go is just what this busy (tired) homeschool Mama needs. 

And that's what intrigued me about Box of I.D.E.As: having a whole box of wonderful stuff ready and waiting to explore!

Oh, and I.D.E.As. stands for "ideally dynamic enrichment activities". But you probably got that from the company name above, huh?

From the website:

Each Box of IDEAS …

  • is easily portable to provide excellent waiting room and traveling activities to create learning opportunities on the go.
  • is filled with interesting topic-focused activity based learning.
  • contains 10 (and sometimes more) modules with exercises designed around a captivating aspect of the Box topic
  • provides 10 (or more) engaging and thought provoking portfolio pieces to record the student’s journey through the box.
  • is packed with many additional ideas and suggestions for delving deeper into an area of interest.
  • has a variety of thoroughly researched web links to encourage further exploration of the topics.
  • incudes a devotional booklet designed to biblically examine the Box topic.

What We Reviewed:

Salt, yes, SALT! In this Box of I.D.E.As, we learned about SALT (current price $79.00 for physical box which we received for review or $49 for a PDF download). We studied the history of salt, the science of salt, preserving with salt, consuming too much salt, the geography of salt, the language of salt, and the connection between salt and the Great Wall of China. (Uh-huh, there IS a connection!) With 10 modules to study, there was a whole lotta learnin' goin' on!

Our Experience
Oh, did I enjoy opening this box! Why? There were 10 sealed bags of activities inside that included an information sheet with lesson extensions and weblinks, materials needed in the lesson (i.e. PENCIL) and even a worksheet to complete and document our learning. Everything was oh-so organized! 

I used this with both Sugar Maple (10) and Balsam Fir (7). Box of I.D.E.As is recommended for ages 9-16. There were some concepts (such as finding percentage) that were beyond Balsam Fir's abilities, but the hands-on activities (such as flashcards and maps) and notebook pages were easily adaptable for a younger student. Both the Saplings sat down together at the school table (i.e dining table) and worked through most of the packets together at their pace. Sugar Maple was the instructor and Balsam Fir her student while Mom observed nearby and helped when needed. My daughter loves being the teacher and Box of I.D.E.As was a perfect program for her to do this since everything was there!

And you can see that they were very intently working together to do some of the activities! This particular activity included world geography and salt history information as well as putting dates or numbers in order for Balsam Fir (which Sugar Maple tried teaching him). They even pulled our globe out for a more worldly view of salt producers. Lots of cooperative learning from different subjects!

What other things were included? Well, there's a lab experiment testing different kinds of melting salt (and the salt was included in the box), salt area flashcards, a salt game board with playing pieces and di, beautiful salt lake picture cards, salt sayings cards, and a laminated (and reusable) menu planner to track salt consumption with a dry-erase marker (included).

My only wish is that this product came with a nice book to read along with the topic. Each of the 10 learning packets came with a short informational piece, but it wasn't particularly interesting to the kids. Unfortunately our itty bitty library did not have any books on salt that we could borrow, but there are weblinks available for additional explores included with each packet and these were quite helpful in adding additional information when the kids wanted some.

Otherwise, the ease of use and the hands-on activities are top-notch and we would totally recommend any of the boxes - WWII, Pigs, Eleven (yeah, go check out what this means at the website LOL), Laundry, and Quilting - to supplement studies or for a great unit studies! 

Disclaimer: Our Side of the Mountain received Box of I.D.E.As: Salt free to review. All thoughts and opinions are our own. If you would like more information, please contact Box of I.D.E.As for more information or to see what other unit studies they have available. Or head over to the TOS Review Crew to read more review experiences here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: Session 1 Week 4

In Our Life This Week
Blue Spruce was away for additional job training this week, so I was on my own with the Saplings. It's always strange having a family member away! But you know us - we were "busy beavers" and the week flew by!

What's Cooking?
It's the Girl Scout Bake Sale Fundraiser tomorrow, so Sugar Maple and I whipped up some quick, easy sweet treats to bring to the sale. Looking for something yummy? How about some No Bake Chocolate-Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies? Or Peanut Butter Bars?

Homeschool Elementary
So, what's our fun way of reviewing our Botany? Why, we go on a hike of course! ::wink:: During our stroll near the lake, we discussed and found samples of Angiosperms and Gymnosperms, Vascular and Non-vascular plants, and Monocots and Dicots, and explained photosynthesis and chlorophyll to Balsam Fir while looking at fall foliage and saw several species of fungi. Then we found animal tracks along the water's edge and followed them. Later, we searched through our nature books to ID those tracks. And the rest of the week? Well, we dissected flowers, watched phototropism in our Plant Maze Box, measured the growth of bean seeds in light and non-light environments, and made a list of all the tree species in our yard (just because the kids were curious).

This week's handicraft project was Brown Paper Bag Autumn Trees. (You can find the instructions here.) But they didn't follow the instructions to the T. ::wink:: They created paper bag FORESTS, complete with logs, bushes, people, and birds. Our favorite resource this week! Are you doing any fun, creative fall crafts?

Sugar Maple read Children of the Lamp (PB Kerr) and Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson), and Balsam Fir continued on with Nate the Great and the Snowy Trail (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat) and The Lorax (Dr. Suess)

Sugar Maple
English - Personal Narrative Writing, Using Time Words, Past Tense, Reading, Cursive, Spelling with Samson
Math - Geometry (Line Segments/Points), Tally Marks, Word Problems, Money, Missing Number Problems
Botany - Flower Dissection, Phototropism, Carnivorous Plants (Pitcher/ Venus Fly Trap/ Bladderwort/Sundew)
Ancient History - Gilgamesh, Indus Valley Citadels
Extras - Nature Hike, Lowe's Build and Grow, Soccer, Clarinet/Band, Girl Scouts Outdoor Day, 3D Art, ZooWhiz (computer), Spanish (computer)

Balsam Fir
English - Personal Narrative Story (with I/me), Nouns, Sight Words with Samson, Oral Reading, Handwriting
Math - Subtraction, Writing Equations, Logic Puzzles, Number Lines
Botany - Flower Dissection, Phototropism, Carnivorous Plants (Pitcher/ Venus Fly Trap/ Bladderwort/Sundew)
Ancient History - Gilgamesh, Indus Valley Citadels
Extras - Nature Hike, Legos, Lowe's Build and Grow, Soccer, 3D Art, Baking (Frosted Brownes)

Homeschool High
So, White Pine continued on with his studies. I wish I could put something new and exciting here, but his days pretty much look the same: he piles his books and laptop on the sectional sofa beside him, puts ear-buds in his ears with music playing to block the noise from the rest of us, and he quietly and intently goes about his learning in his PJs until he gets ready for soccer in the afternoons. Very college-like! ::sniffle:: He's certainly growing up!

English - Walden (Thoreau), The Further Adventures of the Swiss Family Robinson (Defoe) Approach Paper, Grammar (Adjectives/Adverbs)
Algebra - Multiplication/Division of Signed Numbers, Inverse Operations, Perimeter/Radius, Geometry (Lines/Segments/Area), Order of Operations
Biology - Water Molecules, Water Properties, Acids/Bases, Carbohydrates, Carbon Compounds (Macromolecules/Lipids/Nucleic Acids/Proteins/Enzymes), Ecology
World History - Africa
Extras - Scout Mountain Hike, Corn Maze, Soccer, Scout Meeting

Have you ever seen a molting chicken? Poor things! Our hens are about 15-16 months old now...and starting to go through their first molts (after chick-hood). They'll lose all their old feathers and grow in new ones for the winter months. New feathers are better for keeping the chickens warm. We've got a coop full of flying feathers and grumpy girls! But most of them are still laying!

Something to Share

Well, that's a wrap from Our Side of the Mountain this week! Thanks for stopping by! Have a GREAT week!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Crew Review: Music Together

We listen to different styles and time periods of music. In my van right now you'll find The Beatles, The Muppets Greatest Hits, Pink, 80s Greatest Hits, Adam Lambert, Sonny with a Chance soundtrack, and Schoolhouse Rock. Pretty eclectic, huh? ::laugh:: We also listen to Country and Pop on the radio when the mood hits. But I thought it would be neat to review Music Together and listen to some other childhood favorites once again! Or perhaps find some new favorites!

For this crew review we received the Music Together Family Favorites CD and Songbook combo (item K0277 $39.95). The CD includes 19 children's songs in a cute green and black case with an attached mini booklet briefly describing each song and suggestions for family activities to do together. Song titles include "Ridin' in the Car", "Hello Song", "She Sells Sea Shells", and "I've Been Working on the Railroad"; a combination of new songs and classics we grew up with. (Click here to preview the songs included on this CD or to purchase individual downloads.) And the Songbook is 112 pages of more detailed song descriptions and history, lyrics and music and numerous activities broken down into ages and special needs adaptations. 

This review was for Balsam Fir, my active 7-year-old 2nd grader. If you've read around Our Side of the Mountain for a while or are a family member or friend then you know my Sapling has a neurological condition called Sensory Processing Disorder. (You can read more about SPD and Balsam Fir's journey here.) Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find inside Music Together's Songbook suggestions and adaptations for children who have sensory challenges. Whoop! It's the first time ever that I have seen a program have this and I was most excited!

So, how did we use this? Well, we don't listen to a lot of music outside of the van. ::wink:: It was only natural that I should slide the CD into the van's CD player for us to enjoy on our way to and from somewhere. And we're always going somewhere! Wonderful children's songs filled the van for several weeks as we dropped the older Saplings off at soccer and scouts and friends and did errands. I quite enjoyed hearing them!

Unfortunately, Balsam Fir's response to the music was "What's this?" Although he was in the age range for this CD he felt that the music was for "babies" and I have to agree. I felt that it was more appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers than a 2nd grader and would highly recommended it for those ages (or for us Moms who like to remember our kiddos when they were younger ::grin::)! It would also be great for young kids at homeschool co-ops and day cares, especially combined with movement activities and props from the accompanying Songbook. 

Now, the songbook is really a great resource to go along with the CD! It really helps with making fun, creative connections to the songs through movement activities such as dancing and stomping, playing instruments to learn rhythms, and singing. Each song section had adaptations for children with special needs that included speech, social, sensory, and physical. Balsam Fir was all for silly dancing in his booster seat or singing along in different voices, but no encouragement would make him play instruments along with the music. (He has auditory defensiveness and doesn't like loud, unexpected sounds...even if HE'S making them.) Many of the activities, like a congo line, would be perfect for a group setting.

Head over to Music Together or the Crew Reviews and see what YOU think!

Disclaimer: Our Side of the Mountain received this product free in exchange for our honest use and review. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Please visit the product website here for additional information or current prices. And as always, head over to the TOS Crew to read more reviews here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: Session 1 Week 3

Hold the blog post! Balsam Fir found a book and started reading it for fun without any encouragement! We'e been waiting and waiting for him to find enjoyment in reading, but until now he hasn't even really liked being read to much less read himself. Whoop! 

Oh, what book? The Lorax by Dr. Suess! He LOVED the movie and found the book upstairs in our library and decided that he was going to read the story...without help! By the end of the day he had read the WHOLE story. ::grin::

In Our Life This Week
Autumn has arrived! A season of crisp nights and warm days, red, orange and yellow leaves, carved pumpkins, relaxing walks in the woods, and lots and lots of apple treats. 

Most every mid-September we drive to Grandpa and Nannie Lobster's and have a family apple picking Sunday. This season we picked 2 bushels of Macs to bring back and turned a bunch into crockpot chunky applesauce which we canned up...but have been eating a lot of. (If you decide to try out this recipe, substitute a drizzle of honey for the brown sugar.)

But it also means that our kayaking days are numbered. ::sigh:: Sugar Maple and I went out late yesterday morning and attempted to kayak around the lake. But the water was too choppy. It was fun trying though! And later on today we're heading to the state park for more paddling and a picnic to end our productive week of learning and then store the kayaks for the season. Hiking anyone?

What's Cooking?
Funeral Sandwiches from Sunday Baker. Oriental Ramen Broccoli Cole Slaw from  Summer Corn, Potato and Bacon Chowder from Weight Watchers. Crockpot Apple Crisp from The Crockin' Girls.

Homeschooling Elementary
Ch-ch-ch-Changes. Yep, just 2 weeks in and I felt the need for some changes. It was pretty obvious from the get-go that Balsam Fir was not syncing with Horizons Math. Did you hear his loud complaints where you are? ::sigh:: So, I printed out the first 30 lessons of the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) and he seems to be responding better to the UK's adaptation of Hungary's Math system. (It's free...) SOTW isn't going as smoothly as I thought either. Why? Sugar Maple and Balsam Fir want me to read 2-3 chapters at a time which puts them "behind" on the activity book stuff. Should I just skip those things and do just what they seem most interested in?  And the Saplings decided that they would rather choose what order they did their daily subjects in. As long as they're productive and learning, right?

I would never ever have guessed what really got the Saplings "school happy" this week...sewing! Have you see this Pinterest pin going around? Well, I thought that Sugar Maple and Balsam Fir could make their own comfy mat while perfecting a simple stitch. "I just can't stop sewing! I want to sew everything," danced Balsam Fir around the livingroom. Who would've thought a 7-year-old boy would find sewing exciting!

We worked Chapter 2 Seeds in Apologia Botany this week. We soaked and then dissected bean seeds then added a labelled drawing with those parts into our notebooks. We made Grass People last week...and watched their "hair" grow this week.  Super cute! We planted additional bean seeds inside plastic baggies with damp napkins to watch them germinate and measure growth with and without sunlight. And we're carefully observing our bean seeds inside our Plant Maze Box to understand phototropism better.  We labelled Angiosperms (flowering plants) either Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons from pictures (because there's not a whole lot of flowering going on in Maine right now ::wink::). Next week? Dissecting flowers!

And we read about King Narmer uniting Lower and Upper Egypt into one strong civilization way back when, King Knufu building the largest pyramid in Egypt as his final resting place, Sargon defeating the city-states in and around Mesopotamia, and the Hammurabi Code of Laws. We watched "Civilization and Writing", "Mesopotamia and Sumeria" and "Ancient Egypt" learning videos at Zane Education. And added history cards to our wall timetime from Tending Our Lord's Garden.

Sugar Maple
✔ English - Object and Person Pronouns, Cursive, Spelling (/out/, /ood/, /ould/, /up/)
✔ Math- Missing Addends, Number Words, Greater Than/Less Than
✔ Science - Parts of Seeds, Germination, Monocots/Dicots
✔ History - Ancient Egypt and King Khufu, Sargon and Mesopotamia, Mummification, Hammurabi, Historical Timeline, Colonial America 
✔ Extras - Sewing, ZooWhiz, Spanish, Typing, Soccer, Kayaking, Clarinet

Balsam Fir
✔ English - Types of Sentences, Complete Sentences, Sight Words, Handwriting, Spelling
✔ Math - Odds/Evens, Double Digit Addition, Calendar (Days of Week video), Counting to 100/Place Value (video), Missing Addends, Tangram Puzzles
✔ Science - Parts of Seeds, Germination, Monocots/Dicots
✔ History - Ancient Egypt and King Khufu, Sargon and Mesopotamia, Mummification, Hammurabi, Historical Timeline, Colonial America
✔ Extras - Sewing, Spanish, Keyboarding, Soccer

Sugar Maple continued to read about Sam Gribley and Frightful in My Side of the Mountain. Balsam Fir finished up his 2nd Nate book this week, Nate the Great and the Lost List. He's chosen Nate the Great and the Snowy Trail for his next Nate mystery. I've been working on his sight word mastery by choosing words from his reading, writing them on styrofoam cups. If he can read the word on the cup he add another stacking cup to his Word Mountain. And if he can't read it, the cup goes to me. In the end we see who has the "mountain" (highest stack) and the "hill" (lowest stack). When Balsam Fir definitely knows a word, I cross it out and write a new word next to it. No sense throwing away the cups until they're filled with words, right? Just a simple thing to add some competition to learning something mundane!

Homeschool High School
White Pine has found his schoolin' rhythm! And is he a busy boy! His core subjects - English, Math, Science, and History - take him from 9:00-1:45 to complete each day, eating lunch while reading, and then he quickly grabs his soccer stuff and we drop him off at the school for practices (2:15 to 5:00) or games (3:00 to 4:30 for home or 2:15 to as late at 8:00 for away). He also has Boy Scouts on Tuesday evenings (if there is no game) and sometimes a scout activity on Saturday. Oh, and open basketball started Friday nights last week. By the time the weekend rolls around, he's ready for some sleeping in! (BTW, we do let him sleep in if he can. ::wink::) But he has a positive attitude about everything he's doing! 

✔ English - The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Approach Paper
✔ Algebra - Area, Inverse Operations, Signed Number Multiplication/Division
✔ Biology - Chemistry of Life, Properties of Water, Nature of Matter, Carbon Compounds, Subatomic Particles, Atomic Structure
✔World History/Geography - Africa and Egyptian History
✔ Extras - Soccer

One of Our Favorite Things
Catching up with friends! My friend and her sons moved away 3 weeks ago. It's been odd to have them gone! Our sons have played sports and attended scouts together "forever" which gave us Moms plenty of chatting time together. Soccer has been QUIET this season! ::wink:: It was nice spending a few hours with them! And fortunately they moved within driving distance of my family for occasional reconnects!

The Tooth Fairy sure has been busy on Our Side of the Mountain! Shhh! Don't tell Balsam Fir, but doesn't he look like a Jack O'Lantern? ::laugh:: Just in time for the Autumn season, huh? I love toothless grins!

A Something to Share

Phew! Did you read all that? ::laugh:: We've had a super busy, but productive and fun week here at Our Side of the Mountain! Perhaps next week will be slower? Nah - I don't think so either! ::laugh:: Have a GREAT week!

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: No Longer Land Lubbers - Session 1 Week 2

In Our Life This Week
::paddle:: ::splash:: ::paddle::

Guess what?! We're 'yakers! Funny name, huh? ::laugh::

We spent every chance we could loading up our new sit-on-top kayaks into and onto the van and heading to one of the many lakes nearby, paddling around. We saw wood ducks and loons and fish...and sadly, trash, during our water explorations. And I became the "coolest Mom ever". ::grin::

Homeschool Elementary
Well, it wasn't such a smooth start to our 2nd week. Perhaps the kids were tired from a busy-busy Sunday? ::sigh:: Fortunately the rest of the week went better! Phew!

The Saplings really enjoyed Balsam Fir's handicraft: straw and paper planes. (You can find the instructions here.) A very simple project, but with lots of possibilities! Sugar Maple and Balsam Fir tested out different wings (i.e. width and diameter of paper circles) and body lengths (i.e. straws) to find just the right combination - medium-width circles with longer straw length - for the longest sustained flights. Heads were ducking with planes flying! ::laugh::

And we made Grass People inspired by Of Primary Importance here. Instead of using her printables, the Saplings made faces and bodies from whatever their creativity lead them to...mostly construction paper, gray duct tape and straws. We're waiting for their "hair" (i.e. grass) to grow.

Sugar Maple
English - Writing Process, Reading Comprehension, Spelling (/in/ and /e/ bases), Vocabulary, Plural Nouns
Math - Multiple Addends, Ordinal Numbers, Fact Families, Money, Place Value
Science/Computer - Vascular/Nonvascular Plants, Angiosperms/Gymnosperms
History/Geography - Colonial America
Extras - Kayaking, Latch-hook, Straw and Paper Planes, Clarinet, Plant People, Girl Scouts, Library, Soccer, Spanish

Balsam Fir
English - Exclamation Sentences, Punctuation, Printing, Nouns, Spelling, Complete Sentences, Handwriting, Types of Sentences
Math - Tally Marks, Skip Counting (5s), Numerical Order, Sets, Money, Addition/Subtraction, Roman Numerals, Odds/Evens
Science/Computer - Vascular/Nonvascular Plants, Angiosperms/Gymnosperms
History/Geography - Colonial America
Extras - Kayaking, Cub Scouts, Straw and Paper Planes, Grass Person, Library, Soccer, Spanish

Sugar Maple read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, a cute tale about a mouse, a spoon of thread, and a princess, and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, a tale about a young boy living in the NY mountains alone, and Balsam Fir continued to follow Nate on his quest to solve a mystery in Nate the Great and the Lost List by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. 

Homeschool High School
I'm quite impressed with White Pine! He's taking his high school studies seriously this year and staying on track (mostly) with the goals we set together. But he has fallen behind a little. I can't blame him though. He'll never have a more challenging teacher than his Mom! ::wink::  For me, having TOO MANY GOALS is better than NOT ENOUGH. (I'm flexible though; I know I'm asking a lot. ::laugh::)

White Pine did some real life Biology on Tuesday. Our Pekin duck Opal developed "Bumblefoot", a foot infection. We worked together to treat and watch her condition the rest of the week. (I'll spare you the treatment details, but if you're interested read this post from Fresh Eggs Daily. You aren't squeemish, right? ::wink::)

English - Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss, Persuasive Essay, Approach Paper, Nouns
Algebra - Sets, Absolute Value, Number Lines, Angles, Diameter/Radius, Area/Perimeter
Biology - Chemical Reactions, Lab: Microscope, Animal Husbandry
World History/Geography - Africa, Egypt
Extras - Kayaking, Walking, Soccer, Boy Scouts, Computer, Word Processing

I am amazed at the devotion and companionship between our two Pekin hens, Opal and Olive. Olive LOVES to swim and forage, but she has not strayed far from Opal's side as walking is difficult for her right now. You should have heard them "chatter" back-and-forth after Opal returned to the run following her morning inside during her first day of treatment! How worried she sounded! I can't imagine what would happen if one should "leave" the other behind. They are most definitely a couple!

A Something to Share

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