Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The World's Greatest Stories: The Prophets

Here at the Smith home, we are currently digging the latest product to come our way from the Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.  It is The World's Greatest Stories, a collection of audio CDs (or cassettes) depicting your choice of King James Version or New International Version (NIV) stories from the Bible.  Let's face it, the Bible has lots of drama!  Arks and Furnaces and Sibling Rivalry....the list goes on.  But sometimes children tune out during parts that lack action or the performance of miracles.  In this series, the very talented voice actor George W. Sarris, works his genius and tells the stories word-for-word, but in such a mesmerizing way that you are pulled into the story.  There is never a dull moment with his voice inflections and dramatic music accompaniment. 

Talk about a great way to get the wonderful words of the Bible into the minds of your children.  I have put these onto my children's iPods for them to listen to at bedtime.  You could also listen to them on long trips (homeschoolers sometimes become "carschoolers" due to hectic schedules with field trips, lessons, etc.) or you could listen as a family while relaxing at home.  Each volume is about 1 hour, but could easily be broken down into one story per day for an entire school week's worth of Bible History.

Our family got the chance to review Volume One:  The Prophets, which include the stories of the Blazing Furnace, The Handwriting on the Wall, Daniel in the Lion's Den, Elijah and the Prophets of Baal, and the Prophecy of Jonah. 

Other volumes include:

The Life of Christ


Joshua and Esther

Joseph and his brothers

Defeating Giants

All of these CDs or cassettes are priced very reasonably at $7.95.  Visit their website at http://www.worldsgreateststories.com/  to order or to find out more.  Or click here to hear an audio clip of all of the volumes that they offer. 

**Disclaimer:  I was provided with a free copy of Volume One:  Prophets in exchange for an honest review.

Click this link to see what the Homeschool Crew reviewers thought of The World's Greatest Stories series!

Friday, December 9, 2011

FREE "War Horse" curriculum!

Thank you, oh thank you, Homeschool Movie Club, for posting this!  If you are reading War Horse by Michael Morpurgo like our family and getting uber-excited about its movie premiere on Christmas day, then you'll definately be interested in a middle school/high school curriculum tie-in for the book/film, written by Sherri Seligson.  Sherri is a marine biologist and writer of Apologia's Marine Biology curriculum, who also blessed us with a curriculum for Dolphin Tale a few months back.  She's back with more goodies for us. 

We are a few chapters away from finishing the book,  enjoying our lastest installment on the fishing dock this week.  The boys baited their hooks and I dried my eyes as we read about Joey the horse and his journey through many owners, both German and English, both harsh and kind, during the horrors of World War I. 

Check out the free War Horse curriculum here.

Check out the trailer for the movie, opening 12/25/11 at a theatre near you.....

Medieval Siege Machines by Pitsco

It was an honor and an absolute joy to be able to review Medieval Siege Machines by Pitsco.  The day this package arrived was a happy day on my front door step.  We have been studying the Middle Ages this year in history, so this was a perfect fit for our family! This kit included the pieces and parts to construct a catapult and a trebuchet (a similar machine using weights and a sling).  The kit also came with a spiral bound plan book with the history of the machines, written in an interesting way, incorporating pop culture references that kept the kids engaged, like Lord of the Rings and the show Punkin' Chunkin!  Also included in the plan book were scientific concepts used in construction and execuition of these machines and graphs to chart the results of your object-flinging!

My son Solomon, built the trebuchet.  He is 10 and had no trouble following the instructions.  I helped him use the X-Acto knife a few times, but only because I wanted to.  He could have handled it.  My son, Denver built the catapult.  He is 11 and had a little bit more difficulty.  I think the catapult kit was a tiny bit more challenging to build.  We came to a stumbling block a bit when the trigger piece broke.  It was VERY difficult to squeeze a tiny dowel rod through the space it needed to rest and required a rubber mallet to tap it into place.  The instructions didn't ask us to use a rubber mallet but we tried every amount of squeezing and pushing, trying hard not to crush this delicate structure he had just made! Needless to say it broke.  I was quickly on the phone with Pitsco and they were very interested in replacing the part for us.  When the replacement part came, it broke too.  We figured out that the catapult works without that piece and the results were still the same=  one finished product and one happy kid. 

The kit sells for $21.95.  Our kit came with both machine kits, modeling clay to construct projectiles and the wonderful book they have written to tie in to the model-building. You only need to provide a few basic things--a craft knife, safety goggles, needle-nose pliers, etc.  We had all of these things in the house. 

My only suggestion is that the company work on the construction of the trigger for the catapult.  The pieces are designed to fit so tightly that it required extra force on an already delicate structure.  The dowel may need to be a hair smaller in diameter for it to slide in smoothly. 

I love this product.  My boys loved this product!  I will be visiting their site for more models to construct for sure.

**Disclaimer:  I was provided with a free product to try in exchange for an honest review.

See what my friends at the Homeschool Crew thought about Pitsco's Medieval Siege Machines at this link

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Artistic Pursuits Review

I was thrilled to get this one!  Artistic Pursuits is a name that has been on my mind and praised from the mouths of so many fellow homeschoolers.  I almost bought it at the last homeschool convention.  Glad I waited, because it is up for review this week by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  Woot!

We were able to choose our own level that we would like to use with our children.  I chose "Grades 4-6 Book One:  The Elements of Art and Composition" by Brenda Ellis.

Artistic Pursuits is an art curriculum that is based on the concept that if you spend one hour, twice per week using the lessons in the book, your chlid will 1). Build a Visual Vocabulary, 2) Develop an appreciation for Art History, 3) Learn how to use art materials using various techniques. and 4). Incorporate all of these lessons to produce original artwork of their own!

For example, the first unit is about "Space".  How does an artist use space in his/her compositions?  First, the student views a full-color (thank you) version of "Washington Crossing the Deleware" by Emmanuel Leutze (1816-1868).  History of the time period is given in the margins.  Little cartoons showing good and poor use of artistic space are given.  Sketchy examples show students how to accomplish a final project.  And we are also given a little interesting background on the artist.  Each lesson tells you what materials you will need (rarely anything unusual or expensive).  Artistic terms such as "media" and "value" are explained in easy terms.  I also like that student works are used, not just those of the professionals.  There is nothing more intimidating than feeling like your art stinks compared to the pros. 

There are 16 Units in this volume and each is split into 4 lessons.  Lesson One is always "Vocabulary and Creative Exercise", Lesson Two is "Art Appreciation/History", Leson Three is "Techniques" and Lesson Four is "Application". You could easily do 2 lessons per week and finish in a natural school year.  In the end, students will feel like they can do more than just draw stick figures.  They can actually give their drawing dimension, shading, contour, texture and movement.  I even felt confident in myself after two lessons that I could draw a recognizable horse! Students will learn drawing, painting, sculpture and other techniques with Artistic Pursuits.

 The curriculum books come in spiral bound form, but all pages are colorful and of the upmost quality.  They sell for $42.95, plus shipping.  That's your entire art curriculum right there! The company also sells kits of supplies for everything you need.  There is a book for preschool, three volumes of books for Grades K-3, two books for Grades 4-6, two Middle School books and two High School books.  The K-3 books dig deep into art periods (the Ancients, MiddleAges and 1800/1900's).  The older books cover drawing basics and color theory. 

If you are intimidated by art intruction or art history, this is the program for you!  There is very little teacher preparation and the lessons are written to the student.  I would venture to say you probably have most of the materials you'll ever need right there in your supply closet!

Artistic Pursuits has won awards and accolades too numerous to mention.  I am happy to report that we will be using Artistic Pursuits as our formal art program for many years to come! 

**Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of this curriculum in exchange for an honest review, which I've provided here.

**Don't just take my word for it--check out the opinions of my friends at the Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Review!  Click here.

Snapshots Across America

Aside from debt reduction, my part-time job is secretly financing an upcoming family trip to Washington, D.C. for next year!  Dave and I don't dare tell the boys yet--not until plane tickets are purchased.  They have been begging to ride in an airplane forever.  We don't have much family outside Florida, so all of our visits to grandparents, aunts and uncles are local.  This will be an amazing trip, as I have also never been to our nation's capitol.  Somehow, in 38 years, I've never made it there.

This tied in to our geography lesson today. We played "Snapshots Across America", a game that is loads of fun, educational and inspiring.  You'll want to pack your bags and see America after the game is done. The game is for ages 8 and up, up to 6 players. You play with car tokens on a map board.  You draw 6 cards and your goal is to make it to your "tourist attractions" and share your card with the rest of the group.  The first player to 7 destinations wins.  But this isn't as easy as it sounds.  If you don't draw a "Train Ride" (good for travel across 4 states) or "Airfare" ticket (good for one way or round trip), you've got to drive your car, one state per turn, to get there.  And the only way to get to Hawaii is by a cruise ship!  Also, your opponents can close your airports or sabotage your vacation with wildfires, tornadoes or earthquakes!  The kids wanted to play a second round today, even after 30 minutes of play.  That's a sign that it is a winner--Dr. Toy thinks so, too, as it was a Dr. Toy winner in 2010. 

I am not reviewing this product for anyone else today.  Just thought I'd share an idea for a great educational gift for Christmas, your family, or your classroom!  Check out Snapshots Across America at amazon.com here.  It sells for $24.99 and is well worth the knowledge and fun you'll enjoy from this game!