Monday, May 18, 2009

TOPS Green Thumbs: Corn and Beans

Until now, Emily's science education has consisted of reading "real books," including Magic School Bus, Let's Read and Find Out Science, etc and doing occasional experiments and projects. She enjoys science, but we have never tackled anything very "meaty." Most projects have been completed in an afternoon. A few weeks ago, we started doing TOPS Learning Systems Green Thumbs: Corn and Beans. This is part of TOPS' Activity Sheet Series. This particular volume is for grades 3-10, so Emily is at the low end of the grade range. This five-week long unit is self-directed and includes labs and journaling assignments every day. I have to say that I am highly impressed with this volume! The first few days were spent making lab equipment--a balance created from a can, a clothespin, a straw and paper "masses," a pole planter, and a plant growing tray. She spent hours just playing with the balance (which works surprisingly well) before she even started the experiments. She has grown bean and corn plants, weighed dry and soaked seeds, learned about the parts of the seed and the plant, measured and documented the daily growth of her plants and more. Any visitor to our home has been taken to her project, where she shows off her plants and homemade balance and explains the difference between monocots and dicots. Emily has been able to do this study with minimal help. I provide some supervision to make sure she is following the directions correctly and check over the answers and drawings in her journal. Her work is at a third grade level, of course, but she has learned a lot. An older student would be able to complete the projects with even more comprehension and more detailed answers and drawings. Emily is so proud of the journal she has created. This has been the favorite part of her day for the last 4 weeks! We will definitely be looking for more TOPS units for next year!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance

Wow! Great e-book! I have always enjoyed reading about the days and lives of other homeschoolers. We homeschoolers are a varied group, from our teaching styles to our lifestyles to the makeup of our families. I usually find that I take away inspiration or ideas from reading about other homeschoolers, whatever their situations. HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School without Losing Your Balance is a compilation of the personal stories of women who home school and also work from home. I have a business, Super Star DML Publishing, writing and publishing speech therapy materials for parents to use with their children at home, so when I saw the title of this book, I was eager to read it in order to learn how other moms juggled their busy lives working and teaching their children. The moms profiled in HomeWork represent a range of “home work.” Some have home businesses writing, printing and crafting. Some do contract work for others, such as medical transcription and accounting. Many have continued a pre-child career; others have turned a hobby into a paying job. Some work in business with their husband to provide all of the family’s support. Others earn only a few hundred dollars a month to pay for “extras.” The range is so wide that nearly any reader will identify and be inspired by at least one of the featured women! Regardless of what business the reader might be interested in, lessons can be learned from the successes and failures in these chapters. HomeWork concludes with several chapters addressing the skills and abilities needed in any home business. An excellent chapter is devoted to financial management; another to organizational skills. I found HomeWork to be an enjoyable read that gave me many new ideas for business and business management while homeschooling, as well as providing inspiration that Yes! I can do it too!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Old Schoolhouse WeE-Books

I recently reviewed three of The Old Schoolhouse’s WeE-Books. These short books might better be described as “articles,” since they can be read in just a few minutes. I noticed that the selection of WeE-Books was quite varied--from child-raising to homemaking to mini unit-studies. They sell for only $1.99.
A Naturally Clean Home … and Baby! By Lisa Barthuly (2009)
This e-book started with a discussion of the many chemicals that we are exposed to in our daily lives, from the water we drink, to the health and beauty products that we use, to the cleaning products that we use each day. Given that many of these chemicals may be harmful, it seems like a great idea to make substitutes when possible. The author gives several recipes for homemade cleaning products, including dishwasher soap, laundry soap and bathroom cleanser. I have used a similar recipe for laundry soap in the past and it seemed to work well. I am running low on dishwasher detergent, so I am going to try out that recipe this week! The author then cautions the reader about the dangers of baby products, such as chemical-laden diapers and wipes. She gives encouragement to try using cloth diapers, washing them at home, and homemade baby wipes. Because of the brevity of this WeE-book, not as much information was given as I would have liked to see. I will have to do my own research concerning which household chemicals are harmful and which may be innocuous. I appreciated the cleaning product recipes and will try them all out, but I would have like to see many more recipes and substitutions, or at least links to websites with more information and ideas.
The Real Hummers By Jeannie Fulbright
My eight-year old loves to watch the birds out our kitchen window as she works on her table assignments each morning. When she sees a bird she we can’t identify, we run for our “bird book” to look it up. When I showed her this new WeE-Book, she was excited to learn more about hummingbirds. This mini-book about hummingbirds is written in a very interesting, conversational style that easily kept my daughter’s interest. We both learned a lot of new information about “hummers,” including their migration patterns, diet, and amazing wing speed. We were surprised to learn that they hibernate every night in order to conserve enough energy to survive until the next day! The author emphasized the wonder of God’s creation in His design of this amazing creature. The mini unit was followed by an extensive list of perennials, annuals, and bushes that attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. We’re going to buy and hang a hummingbird feeder this week!
Don’t Rush God! Donna Rees
My eight year old and I read this WeE-book together. The author tells a personal story about the time that her family was able to watch the life cycle of a butterfly, observing God’s intricate plan for this creature. The author describes how, at one point, her son tried to “help” the process with almost-disastrous results. The whole family learned how every step in God’s plan in the process of the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis was critical. The story depicts vividly how God’s plan is perfect in our lives. His timing is perfect. Often, when we have troubles in our lives, we are sure that we know just what God needs to do, and when. But only God sees the whole picture. He can and will use our struggles to His glory. God’s timing is perfect and we need to trust him. The story is followed by helpful discussion questions, Bible references, and several pages of Bible verse copy work. I loved the narrow line spacing for the copy work-perfect for a third grader! This WeE-Book is a “must-read.” The symbolism and lessons will stick with me for a long time!