Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Girls of American History - Literature and Unit Study Guides for American Girl Books

Have you seen The American Girls Collection of historical fiction books for kids? It's been a FAVORITE of my Cati for years. I wouldn't be surprised if she's read through the series 3, 4 or 5 times. So, when Justine Gamble from Girls of American History: A Multi-Sensory Curriculum wanted product reviewers, we signed up for Addy!

"...Read it, Hear it, See it, Write it, and Do it.." - Justine Gamble from Girls of American History

What We Reviewed
Girls of American History Curriculum Unit 5: The Civil War - A Literature Guide and Unit Study for Addy, An American Girl - Time Period 1864
Published by Justine Gamble 2012
Individual Literature Studies $7.95 / Full Set $72.00 (prices subject to change)
Free Samples Available Here

Quick Peek
• Multi-sensory Approach to Learning
• Using Popular Literature
• Suggested Weekly Schedule
• Required and Suggested Reading List
• Field Trip and Craft Lists
• Templates
• On-line Additional Resources

Planning and Preparing
The first thing I did was download the 17 page literature and study guide, print it and slip the pages into a plastic report cover. I recommend these covers as they keep print-outs protected during use and are inexpensive to purchase and reuse.

I used the Overview of Content to gather books (from the library) and arts and crafts supplies. There were also additional resource and reading lists, suggested field trips (none in our area), and a weekly plans and schedule graph. All handy, quick resources to plan your unit study!

A lapbook was suggested to go along with the multi-sensory study, and, as ALWAYS, I downloaded from my favorite lapbook resource on-line. And because Cati doesn't enjoy the cutting-out-and-folding-mini-books part of lapbooks, I did that for her (while watching TV in the evenings). There were also suggestions for craft activities, which we already had 2 kits of.

What We Did
Everything was placed in a handy-dandy plastic basket, and Cati independently worked on the study during her leisure times. As a 6th grader, she was ready to "spread her wings" and take charge of some of her learning...and this literature study was easy enough for her to follow and implement with only a minimum amount of guidance from me. We made a schedule together - one book and one section of the lapbook per week. Definitely doable with her core classes, heavy band schedule, and scouting commitments!

She worked on these studies several times a week, sometimes skipping a few weeks as life happened. It was easy for her to pick-up where she left off and continue on. We borrowed the required reading books from our library, so no purchase was necessary. (Since this is a popular series of books, most libraries should have copies available.)  She's looking forward to completing her study with the Emancipation Party suggested in the study guide. It includes recipe suggestions and time-period games.

What We Didn't Do
Follow the weekly plans and schedule graph. Although a wonderful resource for planning your studies, Cati opted to work at her own pace, reading additional books, watching You Tube videos, doing additional crafts. Definitely a curriculum that can be tweaked to fit whatever your learners' needs and interest take them! 

She hasn't finished the unit study at this time. She's completed a number of weeks, but sometimes studies take longer than planned when following interests. Learning shoudn't be rushed! Fortunately, Girls of American History can be done both as a main history study AND as a supplemental study over different lengths of time.

Our Thoughts
Girls of American History is suggested for grades 2-6. Being in 6th grade, Cati found the unit study suggestions and work too simple. She's read the books before and are below her ability level; each one takes her about about 45 minutes to read. She wanted "more" from Girls of American History, but fortunately it's an easy guide to tweak, adding more detailed, in-dept work from other sources. Our suggested grade levels are advanced 1st - average 4th.

Otherwise, Girls of American History are a go-to for students who love the American Girl series of historical fiction! Super easy to print-out, implement and use, and can be changed up in a variety of ways to meet individual learners. You can focus on a specific girl and period of time, or get the 12 unit set, a complete study of American history that can be finished in two school years.

For more information, click on the following links:

 Disclosure: A Great Balancing Act was given a PDF download of the Girls of American History Unit 5 The Civil War literature study and subscriber access on-line for our honest review. All thoughts are our own.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Over the Long Weekend and Short Week

I was SUPER excited that we had NOTHING scheduled Friday through Monday. When does that happen? Never! I guess I'm a homebody at heart, and enjoy having days at home to catch up on projects, spend time with the kids...and, yes, sleep in a little.

Over the weekend Jake's best buddy T__ stayed with us. Can I tell you how AWESOME his kid is? He spent HOURS cleaning and organizing Sam's bedroom, just because. (Even I haven't been brave enough to tackle that!) He and Jake moved some household things into storage, fixed the back door, and finished winterizing the flock run. I'm grateful to have handy teenage boys around to help tackle projects!

Our Wellies are not longer chicks. They're beautiful brown hens with golden heads and red combs and wattles. They're laying teeny, speckled-tan eggs now.

Having the boys around gave ME time to plan meals, shop for this week's groceries and get some quick snacks and meals pulled together for the week.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Different Fixings, Egg, Turkey Bacon and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwiches, Cold Cereal with Skim Milk and Fruit
● Lunch: PB and J or Turkey and Cheese Sandwiches with Fruit and Veggies, Leftovers
● Dinner: Soft Beefy Cheddar Tacos with Mixed Greens and Rice, Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole with Broccoli, Chef Salad, Homemade Cheese Pizza with Herbed Crust
 Snacks: Fresh Fruit and Veggie Sticks, Hard-boiled Eggs, Nonfat Greek Yogurt, Wild Maine Berry Muffins, Air-popped popcorn
● Dessert: Almond-Orange Cake, Chocolate No Bake Cookies, Frozen Non-Fat Yogurt

Jake also had Tuesday off from B__ A__, so both his week and our homeschool week were short ones. A much needed recoup (for me) around here! A friend even came over with her daughter for hot mint chocolate, cookies, Skip-Bo, and Rummikub one rainy afternoon.

Jake received his first grades. They're not like other public school grades as they're based on projects goals, personal improvement, community involvement, understanding of the material, non-tested, cooperative teamwork...and ongoing. (Low scores are only an indication that the project is "in progress".) I'm pleased with his effort even if they weren't all 4s, the highest "grades"!

Homeschool? Well, we completed 2 1/2 days this week. Cati started a Life Science Experiment on the effects of fertilizers on fish tank water. (Special thanks to Sam's tropical fish for the water samples.) We already know what THAT effect will be, but it'll be interesting to see anyway, right? Sam flew through MUS lesson 13 on measurement (inches).  The boy who can wield a tape measure knows his inches! We skipped on through to lesson 14. Both read, reluctantly completed some grammar, and studied spelling words, and we even watched some NROC U.S. History videos about the War of 1812. (See my free resources tab for the NROC link.)

People and Places
● Clarinet Lesson and Concert Band (C) ● Boy Scout Court of Honor (J) ● 

Something to Share

As ALWAYS, linking up to these WONDERFUL blogs:
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Friday, November 8, 2013

10 Weeks Down, 22 To Go

It's amazing that we're almost 1/3 finished for the year. 10 weeks down, 22 weeks coming up! It's time to stop, reflect on our progress, and tweak as needed. Are we on track? Where do we go from here? Let's see!

Language Arts

Reading 9 Books
Easy Grammar 6 65/332 Pages
Daily Grams 6 30/180 Days
Poetry Unit 7/18 Styles
Spelling Power Level D 23/36 Lists
Greek Word Roots: Para, Photos, Phone, Graph, Pyro, Metron

✏ Cati's a voracious reader! She has finished prepositions in grammar, and received a 95% on her overall test, and is working on verbs/verb phrases. However, she hasn't covered as much "ground" as I had planned for Grammar. (It's not her favorite subject...) We started her poetry unit a few weeks into the year and is learning and writing different types of "formula poetry" such as Haiku, Tanku and Couplets. Spelling is ALWAYS a struggle, but she is well on her way to completing Level D (Grade 4).

Magic Tree House 3 Books
Daily Grams 3 43/180 Days
Copywork 5 Poems
Spelling Power Level A 14/29 Lists
Greek Word Roots: Para, Photos, Phone, Graph, Pyro, Metron

Although reading only 3 books in 10 weeks may seem low, it's a GREAT accomplishment for Sam to read at GRADE LEVEL with visual processing challenges (SPD). I'm super proud at him for plugging away at something so frustrating for him. He's also half way through Level A (Grade 1) in SP, his first year of formal spelling. I'm not concerned that he's 2 levels behind as he should complete Level A & B this year. Grammar is also new for him, but he is moving ahead, learning the basics with spiraling review. His handwriting remains wobbly, but legible. Barely. We will be stopping poetry copywork to work on letter formation and spacing for a while.

Saxon 76 70/138 Lessons
✏ Cati has completed over half her math in just 10 weeks! Instead of completing every single lesson, she's been taking the tests and moving ahead 5 lessons each test with a score of 85% or better. Rarely has she gotten below a 90%! I see no point in doing days and days of lessons for concepts she's got a "handle on". We're still in discussion about starting Saxon Algebra 1/2 or Khan Academy later this year.

Math-U-See Beta 13/30 Lesons
✏ Sam is continuing to work on MUS from last year. He's completed 6 lessons in 10 weeks. (Each lesson has 7 practice pages and a test.) He's been doing very well so I'm beginning to skip some of the practice pages with problems that "click" with him. He's ready to move ahead to harder concepts. My goal is to have him finish MUS and start Horizons 2 (for multiplication) by March.

Life Science

Prentice Hall Life Science 8/24 Chapters

✏ Although Cati is finishing up Chapter 8, she skipped 2 earlier chapters, making for only 6 chapters completed. With science, I don't focus so much on getting these chapters completed as understanding the information within them and observing concepts through experiments. (We've done 7 experiments thus far.) Her major areas of study have been in cells (processes and energy), some genetics, bacteria and viruses, and now protists and fungi.

Mr. Q Life Science 13/36

 Sam is doing his Life Science on-line, and has covered biotic and abiotic things, recycling, habitats and niches, biomes, animals species, life cycles, and now the classification system.

U.S. History
NROC US History 1 19/40 Lessons
"America: A Story of US" 4/12 Videos

✏ We ALWAYS have one subject that we're "all over the place" with, and this year it's history. We're oftentimes not accomplishing it for days at a time, but we're still almost half way through the first 40 lessons of NROC (for high school students).

Fine Arts 
Band 4 Days
Art Fraud Detective 6/30 Artists

✏ Cati is participating in both Jazz and Concert bands at the middle school, and continuing to take clarinet lessons. Both Cati and Sam are working together to learn different historical artists using the book Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime! (Nilsen), which have included Della Francesca, Eyck, Uccello, Van De Velde, Watteau, and Vermeer.

As ALWAYS, linking up to these WONDERFUL blogs:
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Friday, October 18, 2013

A Peek at Our Week: Getting Back on Track

In My Life This Week
Again, it seems like I spend most of my weeks doing the same things. Not that that is a bad thing, right? LOL I have started walking regularly now that the temperatures are cooler. The dogs get all giddy when they see me putting my walking sneakers on (since they're my usual walking partners). It's been nice getting out again, traipsing through the woods with the leaves crunching underneath my feet.

Things I Worked On
✾ Scrubbing "green stuff" off the house's vinyl siding ✾

What We're Cooking
New England Pumpkin Pie! Do you have One-Pie canned pumpkin where you live? It's the recipe right on the back of the can! Best ever! (But you can find the recipe here.) I think it's the molasses that makes it New England

Now, just because I don't follow recipes exactly most of the time: I used skim milk in this recipe and no butter to make it low in fat, and used 3/4 c sugar instead of 1 c and would probably do 2/3 c next time. And, of course, I used my own roasted and pureed pumpkin that I made last week.

High School Happenings
Jake's summary this week: definition of a community, Nash Equilibrium for Game Theory, types of energy and its effects, histograms vs. box plots (graphing), Chinese writing and speaking, narrative edit, atoms and what they are, and working his video game story with a partner.

Homeschool Happenings

Last Friday I realized that we've hadn't completed U.S. History in almost 2 weeks. Oops! I made a point of getting in our "America: The Story of Us" videos this week. Only we made another oops! and played the wrong disc! The kids didn't want to stop learning about the Depression and Dust Bowl and WWII, so we just continued on, skipping the Civil War. (We'll get back to that.)

Both kids are doing a Poetry unit for writing, but in different ways. Cati is doing formula poetry (or poetry that has specific guidelines such as Haiku) and Sam is doing copywork (currently from A Child's Garden of Verses). It's easier on this Mama to keep their subjects similar, but tweaked for their ability levels.

Here's a sample of Cati's poetry work, which includes putting her final type-written poems into a mini book:

And Sam's copywork: 

We notebook through science using either traditional textbooks or on-line resources. Cati studied bacteria and viruses this week, and Sam studied plants and then the different species of living things. We'll be starting an experiment on testing disinfectants next week! (Such information is good this time of year! :cough: :sneeze:)

We spent Friday morning at H__ Hill nearby, enjoying the mountainous and lake views. This hill was a special spot of the Quakers who settled this town long ago, and there's a special area where people can leave stones with messages for loved ones near a carved wooden statue of Jesus and a child. It is wasn't so cold we could have enjoyed a picnic lunch!

The Serpent's Shadow (C) & Mummies in the Morning (S)
Easy Grammar - Verb/Verb Phrases (C)
Daily Grams - Days 23-25 (C) & Days 32-37 (S)
Spelling Power - Delayed Recall Test / List 30-31 (C) & List 9 (S)
Poetry Unit - Diamante and Parts of Speech (C) & Copywork (S)
Greek Word Roots - pyro, photo, graph, para, phone
Saxon - Test 9/10/11 (C) & Math-U-See - 11X, Test 11, 12A-B (S)
Life Science - Bacteria and Viruses (C) & Amphibians, Birds, Mammals, and Insects (S)
US History - "Bust", "WWII"
Art Detectives - Botticelli, Vermeer, Watteau

People and Places
✾ Boy Scout Camperee (J) ✾ Hangin' out with the S__ Family (All) ✾ Scouts (J/S) ✾ Jazz and Concert Band (C) 

Something to Share

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A Peek at Our Week: A Not-So-Off Week

In My Life This Week
Every Columbus Day weekend a friend of mine, R__, has a Women's Weekend, and for the first time I joined in. We ate meals at restaurants, window shopped for hours, people watched and chatted, played board games, and had lots of giggles. Over the years, I think I have forgotten how fun it can be to get out with girlfriends! How grateful I am that R__ treated me to every thing we did AND her husband graciously watched my kids so I could get out!

Things I Worked On
❦ Roasted and Pureed One Gallon of Pumpkin  Raked Leaves ❦ Began Winterizing Coop/Run ❦ Cleaned and Vacuumed Van 

What We're Cooking
Pumpkin! We harvested 8 pumpkins from our garden this year and a friend gave us a few more. After each of the kids chose one to carve or paint, I baked and pureed the rest, roasting the seeds.

High School Happenings
So, I asked Jake what he did this week and this is what he replied, "Same stuff." There you go! This week's summary from a teenager! LOL

Homeschool Happenings
We had an off week. No school on Monday. For ease, I follow Jake's charter school schedule. When he's not in school, we're not in homeschool. We took yesterday off (for the most part) to kayak. The mild fall weather continues and we're taking advantage of it! (Last year the kayaks were stored the 3rd week of September because it was too cold to go out...)  But some school DID happen!

I was beginning to wonder if Cati and Sam were going to move ahead again in Spelling Power. After WEEKS of playing the Spelling Game, struggling through the same 10-15 words, I'm happy to report that we are once again moving forward. Phew!

The Serpent's Shadow (C) & The Knight Before Dawn (S)
Easy Grammar - Preposition Test, Verb/Verb Phrases (C)
Daily Grams - Days 21-22 (C) & Days 26-31 (S)
Spelling Power - List 20 (C) & List 9 (S)
Poetry Unit - Diamante (C)
Greek Word Roots - pyro, photos, para, phone, graph
Saxon - Review 38/39, Test 8 (C) &  Math-U-See - 11C-F (S)
Life Science - Earth Changes, Bacteria and Viruses (C) & Plants, Reptiles and Amphibians (S)
Phys. Ed. - Bike Riding, Walking, Kayaking

People and Places
❦ Mom's Weekend Out (Mom) ❦ Library (C/S) ❦ Boy Scouts (J) ❦ Concert Band (C) ❦ Boy Scouts Camping (J) ❦ Kayaking ❦ 

Something to Share

As ALWAYS, linking up to these WONDERFUL blogs:
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