Monday, April 29, 2013

Launch Week

Remember a week ago when I told you NOT to buy (at least not yet) the Christian Parenting Handbook?  Well, the wait is over and your patience has paid off!

Buy the paperback format of The Christian Parenting Handbook between April 29 and May 5 and get a package of free resources valued at more than $400.00.

Here’s what's included in the $400 package when you purchase the book!
The Christian Parenting Handbook electronic versions for iPad, Kindle, Nook or any mobile device ($29.97)
Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids Lesson #1 Complete Package including Lesson 1 on Video, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)
Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids Lesson #2 Complete Package including Lesson 2 on Video, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)
Teach Kids to Listen and Follow Instructions on Video, Workbook, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)
Correction Ideas that Touch the Heart on Video, Workbook, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)
Addressing Bad Attitudes in Kids on Video, Workbook, MP3, Study Guide, and Children’s Lesson. ($59.95)
Everyday Parents CAN Raise Extraordinary Kids Session #1 on Video, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)
How to Use The Christian Parenting Handbook 30-minute Video ($24.95)

In addition, you can get The Christian Parenting Handbook Companion Guide (This is a workbook with audio clips that will help you apply the material in The Christian Parenting Handbook.) for free if you purchase 5 copies or more of the book. Simply make your purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM (Books A Million), CBD or Parable.

To  claim your premium, simply forward your purchase confirmation to and we will email you your special product code for the $400.00 package. If you purchased 5 or more copies of the book, we'll send you the PDF version of the Christian Parenting Companion Guide plus Audio Tips.

There's also a Mega Giveaway going on this week.  (And you still have time to enter my personal giveaway)

Review: Homeschool in the Woods

When we first moved to Missouri, Schnickelfritz used to say we lived in “the woods,” there were certainly more trees than our old home built in a former cornfield.  So with all due respect to the Home School in the Woods company, we also fit that description.  We just don’t offer wonder lapbooking kits or timeline figures.   This year I’ve been using their Project Passport on the Middle Ages and loving it so there was no way I was turning down the chance to review their Great Empires activity study for elementary students.

The fourteen empires included in the study are:
  1. Ancient Egypt—The New Kingdom, Akhenaten & Tutankhamen
  2. Ancient Greece—The Archaic Era, the Golden Age, Alexander the Great
  3. Ancient Rome—the founding of Rome, The Punic Wars, Julius Caesar
  4. Ancient China –The first two dynasties and then jumping forward to communism
  5. Arab/Muslim—Mohamed, Islamic invasion of Europe, the Fall of Constantinople
  6. Mongolian—Mongol culture, Genghis Khan
  7. Viking—European invasions, Erik the Red, Leif Eriksson
  8. Spanish—The Reconquista, Ferdinand & Isabella, Phillip II
  9. French—Charlemagne, Louis XIV, French Revolution, Napoleon
  10. English—Battle of Hastings, War of the Roses, Queen Victoria
  11. German—Charlemagne, Protestant Reformation, Third Reich
  12. Japanese—Shoguns, Emperors, WWII
  13. Russian—Tsars, Revolution, Soviet Union
  14. The United States of America—Revolution, Civil War, Cold War
Since we couldn’t get through all the empires, we chose to focus on the ones we’d already been studying from the Middle Ages—Rome, Viking, Mongolian, and Japanese.

The download we received is mostly PDF files (there are images of finished projects for reference). For each empire there is a 2-3 page lesson to read.  They all also have an art/craft project.  You can wee several in the composite picture above: a clay Egyptian cartouche, a Roman fresco panting of a yellow bird,  circullar Viking coins made with cardboard, glue, and spray paint and painted clay pots representing Greek pottery.  We’re not really artsy/craftsy folk so we stuck with the minibooks and map exercises (there’s a teacher’s guide for reference).

Better still are the typical (if not authentic) recipes to try—some empires, like the Vikings did not keep written records so we don’t know exactly how they prepared their food.   The Beef stew was favored by my meat and potato boys, but having been to the Middle East myself and liking Tzatziki sauce I liked the Jalik (cucumber soup).  If you’re curious, the American dishes are Apple Pie and Chili Dogs.

There were no pictures of a finished project—some pages seemed better suited for a notebook (the maps and lesson texts) while others seemed sized for a lapbook (like the Citizens of Impact of the Roman Empire, below)

In the end, there seemed to be more notebook pages than lapbook pieces so we went with that format—gluing the smaller booklets on card stock.

There was a 3-page timeline to get an overview of all the empires.

I ended up trimming the tops of the second and third pages so I could fold it up and only be held in the notebook by the first page (it’s clearer in the picture below)

We certainly enjoyed the activity portion of this activity guide. Our one disappointment was in the lessons themselves—it was just too much like a textbook—a series of dates and names, giving each person and event a sentence or two at most. It didn’t hold my son’s attention, even when he was listening for facts to write in the notebook pages.  It was just too many facts at once for him to keep track of.  By contrast, Our Project Passport from the same vendor went into depth to describe everyday life for a Viking—their work, their homes, their ships, etc.  Since we’ve only used these two studies, I don’t know which format is the norm.  You can follow the link below to other Crew reviews and see what they thought of their products.

Great Empires is available as a download for $18.95 and on CD for $19.95 plus shipping.


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Friday, April 26, 2013

2013 FIRST Championship

As the Metrolink train proceeded toward the St. Louis Convention Center, the normal passengers got a sense that this wouldn’t be a typical weekday commute.  It began in the suburbs with a group of 5th grade parochial school students going on a field trip.  The closer we got to downtown we were joined by a group  of kids with pink, metallic streamer wigs, then came the group with the Viking helmets, the robed Jedi, and the ones in the neon green lab coats.  When we got off at the Convention Center station we merged in with the streams of humanity—this group wearing bowling pin hats, another in orange jumpsuits, still others in matching T shirts but draped with flags from around the world.  Clearly they were all teams, some even bringing fully costumed mascots, but who were they and what were they doing here?  I knew and I wasn’t the least surprised by the garb.

 It was the FIRST Championship and Schnickelfritz and I had seen the same kind of hoopla and enthusiasm last year.  What began with 28 teams in a New Hampshire high school gym in 1992 has grown into a worldwide competition with 1000’s of teams.  The two youngest divisions Jr. First Lego League (K-3) and First Lego League (4-8) were each researching senior adults and brainstorming ways to help seniors stay independent, engaged, and connected.   The FLL kids also participate in the Robot Game – building and programming Lego Mindstorm robots that zip around tables flipping switches, dragging objects, even rolling a miniature bowling ball at pins (everything on the table is build with Legos).  We’ve found it’s better to watch these teams practice in the pit area where we can stand close to the table ourselves.

We zipped right through Scholarship row, but the program guide listed over 150  public and private universities offering scholarships to competitors ranging from $500 to $160,000!  The next area were the sponsor/exhibiters.  Last year, this was Fritz’s favorite area controlling the U.S. Army robots.  They weren’t here this year but our new favorite were the 3D writing machines.  Instead of ink, they were fed a plastic filament that melted at the tip and re-hardened to show the path of the pen.

I’m sure they have a great industrial application, but I couldn’t help seeing how beautiful some of the designs were.

The other exhibitor attracting large crowds was Legos, of course!  Want to see what the “must have” toy for Christmas 2013 will be?  They’re coming out with a new Mindstorms robotic set.

Of course, the bulk of the space is devoted to competitor’s pits—part workshop, part party space.  They are usually decorated to match the team name or country of origin.  There is an Olympic Village sort of atmosphere where most have buttons or pins to trade.  Some have games for the public to play (we took a quiz to see how much we knew about the English city of Bath).  You can watch teams calibrate their robots on individual practice courts and team practice fields as well.

This year’s game seems much harder to me.  Instead of throwing foam basketballs which are symmetrical and (I assume) aerodynamically constant,  the robots must fling Frisbees into narrow boxes.  The one in the picture above looks lit up, but that must be some sort of optical tape that the robots visual sensors can detect.    Now your dealing with an object that must be right side up and spinning while in flight.  The second part of the challenge is to make a robot that can climb the pyramid structure.  Schnickelfritz couldn’t take it any longer, we had to go to the competition area in the arena.

Some teams  chose the more difficult but faster route of designing their robots to pick up Frisbees off the ground near the scoring boxes.  Others chose to use humans to load up the robots at “feeding slots” like what I’ve circled in orange above, across the field from their goal (with the arrow).  Of course, some had the best of both worlds and had calibrated their machines to fling Frisbees from the feeding area, sailing the entire length of the court.  The game lasts 2 minutes and 15 seconds and a buzzer sounds with thirty seconds to go so teams can attempt the pyramid climb.  Most teams were content to hang from the bottom rung and collect 10 points.  A few built multi arm systems (two to hang from and two to reach higher) and made it to the very top.

Thursday was the qualification rounds.  Each team compete with two others on an “alliance.”  The highest scoring individual teams than get to pick to others to compete with in the elimination rounds so their were scores of kids around “scouting” potential partners.  So there’s strategy going on along with engineering—do you want to partner with a climbing team or one with good Frisbee aim?   Some teams focused on defense bumping in to other robots and blocking shots with nets.
The arena can get a little raucous with four FRC fields, four FTC fields and eight JLL tables going on at once.  There’s also loud music and beach balls being batted around in the stands.  When we needed a break we could always go back to the basics—a boy and a huge tub of Lego bricks.

If you live in the St. Louis area, there still a chance to attend today or tomorrow—the event is free to the public.  If not this year, be sure to put it on the calendar for next year (Yes they're coming back to St. Louis again April 23-26. 2014!)
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pressure Cooked Pot Roast

We had Schnickelfritz's grandparents over for dinner last week.  I let my father choose the menu and he went traditional with Pot Roast and Apple Pie (look for that recipe next week!)  This Perfected Pot Roast recipe comes from Bob Warden's Great Food Fast--I think it's the best in the book.   I have an electric pressure cooker, but you could certainly make this in a stovetop version.

Pressure Cooker Pot Roast

2-3 lb       beef chuck roast
3 T           all-purpose flour
2 T           olive oil
1 1/2 C     beef stock or broth
2 T           balsamic vinegar
1 T           minced garlic
1 t            dried thyme
2              bay leaves
1 t            salt
1/2 t         pepper
6              redskin potatoes, halved
1              yellow onion, cut in wedges
2  C         baby carrots
1 T          cornstarch
2 T          water

Sprinkle the chuck roast with flour.  With the cooker's lid off, heat the oil on HIGH.  Place the floured roast in the cooker and brown on both sides.  Add the broth, vinegar, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the cooker.  Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 75 minutes (you may need to add 10 min if your roast is very thick).  Quick release the pressure and add the potatoes, onion, and carrots to the cooker.  Re-pressurize the cooker and cook on high for another 7 min.  Let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes before quick releasing the remaining pressure.  Transfer the roast and veggies to a serving dish and let it rest under foil while you work on the gravy. Mix cornstarch with water until there are no lumps.  Whisk mixture to the cooker and let it simmer 2 min. on high (without the lid) to thicken.  Pour over meat and veggies.

I'm linking up with Try a New Recipe Tuesday

Monday, April 22, 2013

Christian Parenting Tools Giveaway

It ‘s been my privilege the last several weeks to work with the authors and many other bloggers on the Launch Team for The Christian Parenting Handbook.  To generate some excitement for the big Launch Week, I’m offering five of my my readers the chance to win one of the following prizes.

honor-bookThe Honor Multi­‐Media Package ($59.95 value)
Includes Lesson 1 on Video, as an MP3, includes Study Guide pages, and the Kids Honor Club Children’s Program.
This package gives you instructions for both parents and children so that honor can transform the culture in your home.

Biblical Parenting University Online Course ($99.95 value)
The 4-hour class is broken into 4 lessons, each with 10-12 five-minute segments. View one segment at a time, or any number of them as you have time.
This online class will give you the practical tools to develop more responsibility and cooperation in your home.

Disciplemaking at Home eBook ($16.99 value)
Parents have a job to do–pass the faith on to their kids. This book will show you how.

Set of 5 Parenting Shifts eBooks ($49.95 value)
Set Includes:
• The Baby Adventure (Birth to 12 Months)
• Toddlers on the Move (Ages 12-36 Months)
• Preschool Explorers (Ages 3-5 Years)
• Elementary Foundations (Ages 5-8 Years)
• Cultivating Responsibility (Ages 9-12 Years)
Each book gives specific parenting advice for that particular age group.

Christian Parenting Handbook
1 print copy of The Christian Parenting Handbook  and 1 PDF copy of The Christian Parenting Handbook Companion Guide (49.95 value)
(Internat'l winner may receive both as eBooks)

The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Progeny Press

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Yo Ho, Mateys!  We’ve been having a pirate adventure the past several weeks thank to Progeny Press and their Treasure Island Study Guide.   While I didn’t mind my son reading this Robert Louis Stevenson classic,  I also didn’t want him to adopt the current world’s view that the pirates are to be celebrated and/or emulated (our local renaissance festival even schedules a separate Pirate Fest in the fall).  Fortunately, Progeny Press’s mission statement is “To teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!” [emphasis added].

The guide, aimed at 5-8 graders,  is available as a printed booklet ($18.99), on CD ($16.99), or an Instant Download ($16.99).  The PDF file I received is 57 pages long and is formatted so the student may type his answers into fields on the form.

The guide begins with a synopsis of the book, a brief biography of the author, and some pre-reading activities (In our anticipation of the review, we’d already begun reading the book when we received the guide).  Most of these activities were researching types of boats and coins mentioned in the book or finding definitions for archaic terms like “hither” and “thither.”   Instead, we just investigated terms as we encountered them while reading. Since this was a review, I chose to read the book with my son and sit with him as he worked in the guide. 

We did opt for the “As-you-read” activity to create a map of the island and note locations and events from the story.  I scanned and enlarged the map from the title page.  We happened to be using the Educator Classic Library edition of Treasure Island that includes many notes and diagrams in the side margins and it included maps so my son didn’t have to “guess” which suits his nature, but your kids may prefer to make an island entirely from their imagination.


Fritz’s Map   Map from Educator’s Classic edition

The recommended procedure is for the student to read the book the first week of the study while working on the pre-reading exercises. Beginning the second week, the student will work on one study guide page per day until the chapter sections are completed, referring back to the text as needed. That was a little too much reading for my son to handle.  The guide breaks the book into six sections. Each week, he would read the chapters for a section and then we would work on the corresponding guide material.

Each section begins with exercises for new vocabulary words—finding synonyms, determining meaning from context, etc. Then were a series reading comprehension questions (none of which can be answered with a simple one word response).  We usually ended up discussing these before my son typed anything.  He has trouble determining motives behind behavior so the “why” questions were tougher than the “who” or “what” questions. 

The Thinking About the Story” questions really introduced literary concepts like: foreshadowing, dialect, pace, stereotypes, mood, irony, etc.  I think Schnickelfritz’s favorite exercise involved idioms and imagining if the sayings were literal rather than figurative (like a picture of “Long John’s eyes burned in his head”).

The final Dig Deeper questions led us to Scripture verses and then asks us what these verses could teach us or story characters as the dealt with situations in the book ( e.g. What could Squire Trelawney learn from Proverbs 17:28 and Ecclesiastes 3:1?)

I did not assign any of the essays at the end of the guide.  These involve research on sea shanties, famous pirates, character analysis of Long John Silver, a creative writing  to make Benn Gunn’s diary, and a comparison of Treasure Island to The Coral Island by Ballantyne.  Still, we certainly got more out of this review than just a good pirate adventure.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Coming Soon: The Christian Parenting Handbook

From time to time I have recommended a book for you to buy and read.  Today, for the first time, I want to tell you about a book you shouldn’t buy….at least not yet.  The book is the The Christian Parenting Handbook,  and if you can exercise a little patience (wait till April 29-May 5), you can not only purchase the book but receive over $400 in freebies AND have the chance to win some great prizes.

Here’s what the Freebie  package includes:

  The Christian Parenting Handbook electronic versions for iPad, Kindle, Nook or any mobile device ($29.97)

  Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids Lesson #1 Complete Package including Lesson 1 on Video, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)

  Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids Lesson #2 Complete Package including Lesson 2 on Video, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)

  Teach Kids to Listen and Follow Instructions on Video, Workbook, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)

Correction Ideas that Touch the Heart on Video, Workbook, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)

  Addressing Bad Attitudes in Kids on Video, Workbook, MP3, Study Guide, and Children’s Lesson. ($59.95)

Everyday Parents CAN Raise Extraordinary Kids Session #1 on Video, MP3, Study Guide, and Children's Lesson. ($59.95)

  How to Use The Christian Parenting Handbook 30-minute Video ($24.95)


So stay tuned for directions on when and where to buy the book, enter the contests, and obtain the freebies.  In the mean time, I’m not going to just leave you hanging…. I’ve been reading, taking notes, and implementing ideas from this book for a month now and here’s you opportunity to sample the first five chapters! ( You’ll need to fill out the form on the left hand side of the page). 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: Knowledge Quest

I confess that growing up I didn’t like history class.  The textbooks seemed like paragraph after paragraph of name, date, name, battle, name, invention, etc., etc. I did my best to keep everything straight for a week or two until test time and then I flushed it all out to make room for the next chapter of information.   Now, thanks to vendors like  Knowledge Quest , I’ve been able to teach my son history with books and stories that “put skin on” the names of historical figures—heck, sometimes they even put blisters and callouses on the skin.   Such is the case with Sacagawea (Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know) Complete PDF e-book .

Growing up, my only exposure to Sacagawea was the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon “Elbow Room”  (sing along if you remember…)

They hired Sacagawea to be their guide
She led them all across the countryside
If this is the extent of your knowledge too, then you might be surprised to learn she wasn’t hired as a guide.  Her husband was hired to be a translator for the Corp of Discovery and she came along because she was familiar with the Rocky Mountain territory, having been kidnapped from there 4-5 years before.

  The e-Book is available in Kindle format ($4.97) and is targeted to kids ages 10 and up.  There is an interactive feature with certain words and phrases underlined.  When you click on them you are directed to a variety of educational websites with photos and more information on the subject.  This feature may work well on tablets where you can zoom in and out or a regular computer screen, but it wasn’t so great on our Kindle Keyboard .

I started this book as a read aloud with my son, but ended up finishing it on my own.  To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve studied the Corp of Discovery.  We learned about them in our Missouri History, we’ve visited the Fort where they prepared for the journey and several of their campsites along the Missouri River.  We make annual trips to Lewis & Clark Days in St. Charles, MO and Hermann, MO to see the re-enactors.   This book was written from the perspective of the one person on the trip he was least interested in….the girl!  On the other hand, this may make the exploration story more appealing to female students.

I wouldn’t just hand them the novel to read on their own though.  Everything we know about Sacagawea comes from the brief mentions in the journals of the exploratory party.  The author has had to fill in the dialogue and details from her imagination.  She hints at a romantic attraction between the young Indian girl and Captain Clark (although there is no written evidence of such).  This creates a love triangle where Charbonneau (Sacagawea's husband) becomes jealous of their relationship.  In perhaps the most disturbing passage he begins to beat her savagely.
Charbonneau slapped me and threw me to the ground. “Man-With-Red-Hair! [Capt. Clark] That’s all you ever talk about.”
He pinned me down and leaned into my face. “France sold this land to these Americans. And now they will take it from you and all your kind. They are your enemies. You understand? Man-With-Red-Hair is your enemy.”
I do not know how long I lay on the ground feeling the blows of my husband. I had been beaten many times by Buffalo Woman.  I was not afraid of being beaten. I learned to go inside myself to a secret place where I could not feel the blows.  Inside myself was courage and strength. I wrapped my emotions around them and held on until the beating  time was over. ..
Once, when Charbonneau thought no one was looking, he hit me so hard I fell to the ground and cried out because I had not seen him coming.
Man-With-Red-Hair grabbed Charbonneau’s fist and stopped it from finding my face. “You will not put your hands on Janey again.”
I’m not denying that Charbonneau hit his wife.  Clark’s own journal states “I checked our interpreter for Strikeing his woman at their Dinner..”   Still, I don’t think it was necessary to expound on this event in a book meant for children.  I certainly wouldn’t let this passage pass without explaining to my daughter that going to a secret inner place is NOT  the way to handle physical abuse.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cinnamon Blueberry Smoothie

I haven't blogged about it lately, but I'm still making green smoothies for breakfast.   This is the best one so far--but don't judge it by it's color. I've seen this shade of green when changing diapers.  In fact, when we served it to Papa and Schnickelfritz I suggested we turn the lights out before bringing in the glasses.  One taste though and the cinnamon and honey won everyone over.  It comes from 50 Superfoods Green Smoothie Recipes by Rebecca Fallon.

Cinnamon Blueberry Flaxseed Smoothie

2 Cups      beet greens
1               sliced apple (we used Gala)
1/2 Cup    blueberries  (ours were frozen)
1               banana
1/2 t.         cinnamon
1 T            honey
1 T            flaxseed
1 C            cold water

One year I made blueberry spice jam as Christmas gifts so I already knew combining them with cinnamon was a winning combination. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: Supercharged Science

Whenever I gather with other home school moms and we chat about favorite subjects I am always in the minority.  I  favor math and science--both when I was the student and now as a teach my son.  When I taught a hands-on science class at co-op all the other moms were telling me how brave I was to tackle a subject they found intimidating.  From my perspective, the hardest challenge was finding experiment that the kids would find fun but were still packed with learning.  Our latest review product from Supercharged Science may be just the help for everyone concerned.   Their e-Science subscription series offers a plethora of streaming videos with a real rocket scientist explaining concepts for the intimidated set.  For those just looking for fun experiments--there are HUNDREDS!  Seriously, there are about 900 activities, experiments & projects.

The lessons are organized into Units:
  1. Mechanics
  2. Motion
  3. Matter
  4. Energy 1 (Levers & Pulleys)
  5. Energy 2 (Potential & Kinetic)
  6. Sound
  7. Astrophysics
  8. Chemistry 1 (Molecules, Atoms & Chemical Kinetics)
  9. Light
  10. Electricity
  11. Magnetism
  12. Alternative Energy
  13. Thermodynamics
  14. Electronics
  15. Chemistry 2 (Reactions, Bonds, Acids & Bases)
  16. Life Science 1 (Living Organisms, Cells, Genetics, Microscopes)
  17. Life Science 2 (Prokaryotes, Plants, Protists & Fungi)
  18. Biology 1 ( Invertebrates, Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds & Mammals)
  19. Biology 2 (Skin, Bones, Muscles, Cardiovascular)
  20. Earth Science--Coming Soon
There are also special "bonus" units on The Scientific Method, Award Winning Science Fair Projects, Mathemagic, and a summer Science e-Camp.  For each unit, you'll find an introductory video and audio clip,  reading materials (you can read on screen or print out the PDF files), a printable lesson plan (with concepts taught, shopping list, answer key), and videos explaining the experiments and how to build them.  I wish I'd had access to this series when I was teaching hands-on science at our co-op.  The Try It project for one lesson was to build a hovercraft using a leaf blower and cutting a board with a jigsaw--way beyond what I was comfortable doing with a dozen kids.  Supercharged Science also has a hovercraft experiment with the same concept but uses a CD and a balloon and a hot glue gun (something I'm much more comfortable with). 

Blowing over paper lowers air pressure, making it rise

You can use the e-Science program as a stand alone program going from unit to unit (think of it as delight-directed--if you kid wants to learn about astrophysics, let him) or you may download PDF files on which units correlate with popular science curricula like Apologia, A Beka and Switched on Schoolhouse.

We had already finished our science book for the year so I let Schnickelfritz pursue whatever suited his fancy, although I made him begin the Scientific Method Project Guidebook.  It was full of puzzles and games to introduce the importance of observation;  how to recognize variables and why we should only change one at a time; and exercises in being clear and concise in our communication of results.  Here's a chance to test your observation skills...what do your read in the picture on the right?   If your student is old enough for Science Fair projects, the Guidebook ends with walking them step by step through a Linear Accelerator experiment complete with report, display board and oral presentation.

A basic Catapult
Fritz is still at an age where I want him to recognize learning can be fun.  So he could watch the videos and choose the experiments he wanted to try.  If he was interested in learning more then we could go back and read the lessons.  I, on the other hand, am absorbing the articles like Keeping a Scientific Journal, and Seven Biggest Mistakes in Teaching Science.

The majority of experiments use objects you probably already have in your home: rubber bands, string, washers, straws, index cards, etc.  We also used a few hand tools and a glue gun.  There are so many experiments in each Unit, you don't need to go buy "specialized science stuff" unless you want to.  These materials might include Neodymium magnets, neon bulbs, and electrical supplies that can be found at Radio Shack (they even supply the RS part numbers).

The monthly subscription to Supercharged Science is $37/month for K-8 material. To add the high school material (in addition to K-8) is $57/month.  This is no small sum, but if your kid has a bent for science it's certainly cheaper than a course at the community college.  A new subscriber has access to the first 7 Units (see the list above) and gains access to 2 additional Units each month they continue.  There's a 30 day satisfaction guarantee.  Still not sure?  You can try this FREE Science Activity Manual and Video Collection (normally $30).  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: Salem Ridge Press

This year we've been studying the Middle Ages in history.  While I won't say we use the Unit Study method in our home, I'm always looking for good books that fit our historical studies because it can bring the period so much more to life than a textbook.  My latest find came during our review of Salem Ridge Press.

For Merrie England ($10.95, softcover) is one of five titles by Emma Leslie the vendor refers to as the "Junior Church History series" for ages 8+  (I previously reviewed Soldier Fritz from the same series).  The story's setting is England during the Hundred Years War with France, so it falls towards the end of the Middle Ages.  Two Brothers, Roger and Tom,  set off on differing paths to help England during the war.  Roger runs away to become an archer; Tom, younger and lame, is given the opportunity to learn the art of weaving wool into cloth.  The story focuses more on Tom and his learning to weave, learning to walk, and learning the God desires a personal relationship with him. 

I read this book aloud to my 10 year old son.  He could have read most of it himself --archaic terms are defined at the bottom of the pages and I had no concerns that there would be anything that needed to be edited/sanitized for language, sexuality, etc. Instead as I read, he was having so much fun acting as an archer with his PVC bow & arrow set.  That's not to say he wasn't engaged in the story.  I was constantly interrupted with commentary and questions: "Don't they know how we can pray directly to God and not go through saints?"  "Why do they think Tom is helpless just because he has weak legs?"  "If Tom would just look ahead he could see his brother ahead in the line!"    In the end, he did read the last chapter on his own because I developed laryngitis and he couldn't stand wondering if the brothers would ever meet again.

I feel that Salem Ridge Press choice of labeling these books as "church history" is doing them a great disservice.  Yes, they are written from a Protestant Christian worldview and the characters ofter speak about God, prayer, and the saints, but it is not the main focus of the story.  So if you were truly looking for a book on what has happening in the Church during the Middle Ages, you'd probably be disappointed.  On the other hand, if you're looking for a book to bring the Middle Ages to life,  you might pass this book by thinking its just about the church.  Following Tom's journey), we picked up plenty of new information on life in the Middle Ages.  We learned that towns rang curfew bells when everyone had to return home, stop talking , and put out their fires.  We learned people slept on straw on the floor--even in the castle.  We learned about traveling in large groups for safety from bandits and highwaymen. 

Yesterday I posted that 80 percent of books have been published since 1980 and 80 percent of those would have been better left as trees.  For Merrie England was first published in 1890 and its definitely worth a tree or two.


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