Friday, April 27, 2012

Lapbooks for Apologia Science and Much More!

Are you getting bored with school?  Do you use Apologia's middle or high school science?  Or do you use the elementary science series by Jeannie Fulbright?  If you answered YES to any of these questions, then you MUST check out Knowledge Box Central (!  They have amazing products, including Apologia Vocabulary Flash Cards, Lapbooks, Lapbook Journals, and more.  If you sign up for their newsletter, you will receive a
 $10 coupon code to use on their website.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Different Type of Math...

On a roll this month with some amazing products....This time it is The Critical Thinking Company!  Specifically reviewed this time was "Balance Math Teaches Algebra".  If you have never heard of The Critical Thinking Company, they put out super workbooks that teacher deductive reasoning, inferences, lateral thinking, logic, analogies, and other thinking skills.

We purchased Balance Math and More, Level 2 at last year's Homeschool Convention, where I was completely overwhelmed by their booth ( I wanted everything!).  My children have enjoyed using it to supplement their regular math program, or as something different to do on Fridays.  Balance Math Teaches Algebra is a 62 page workbook, using scales to show equalities (or inequalities) and using shapes, letters and numbers to present equations that the student must figure out based on deductive reasoning and logic.  They are actually quite fun once you get the hang of it. 

It starts off simple, to get children used to thinking in terms of "x".  You'll see two scales.  On one side of the first scale, you see "20".  It balances with the other side that shows "x".  So you reason that 20 and x are equal.  The second scale shows "x" and then the other side has a "?".  The student simply writes that the answer is 20.  Once they get their mind working along these lines, they get a little tougher, showing 4 cubes, each labeled "x".  The scale balances out to "20".  The second scale shows 3 "x" cubes, with a question mark on the other side.  The student must realize that if 4x = 20, 3x must equal 15.  And so forth......

Never fear, English-majors!  There are tips and hints in the back, as well as the answers to each question with explanations.  Each page is perforated for easy copying, so you can use them with multiple children and still keep your originals intact for future kiddos coming up the ranks.

I think by using the balances and the shapes, not just numbers and letters, kids will "get it" much easier because the problems look like fun.  They look more like puzzles.  And that's what we call them around here. "Puzzles".

This product sells for $14.99 through the company's site here.  If you have younger children, they also offer Level 1, 2 and 3 Balance Math and More. The concept is the same, but at lower levels (these are the ones we started on last year).  They range from 2nd grade up to 12th grade and start at $9.99 per book. 

I just love the products from CTC!  Looking forward to more excuses to squeeze in a few new concept books each year!

The link to other reviews of this product is here.

**Disclaimer:  I was provided with a copy of this book to use with my children, in exchange for an honest review, having received no other compensation.

Monday, April 23, 2012

One of my Favorites of the Year: Amazing Science, Volume One!

This is definately one of my favorite products I've reviewed this year--and I don't use that phrase often.  This company has earned the honor.  Science and brings you a 2-disc set of DVDs filled with fun and unique science experiments.  You'll be fumbling for your safety goggles, anxious to try them out for yourself! The best thing about this series is that the scientist (yes, a real rocket scientist), Jason Gibson, doesn't rely on crazy costumes, hokey props or false hype.  The "amazing" part is the science itself.  And you probably have everything you need to conduct these experiments at home right now.

Sometimes I'll review a product and I'll use it as part of "school" for the day.  Not this.  I was previewing it around 4pm, long after school was over for the day.  My sons were walking through the room, stopped in their tracks and watched as the narrator was building a battery from a lemon.  The next thing I know, they are bustling around the kitchen with a lemon (that I needed for a chicken dish that night--grrr) and getting everything they needed to make their own battery. 

I think that's all the testimony you need.

With Volume 1, you'll get 23 step-by-step experiments presented in short videos (around 8-10 minutes).  Materials are shown, the experiment will wow you, then Jason tells you the "how" and "why" science behind the fun.  According to the company, "you'll learn about electricity, magnetism, heat, temperature, pressure, surface tension, buoyancy and much more."

We did the Color Changing Milk experiment, the amazing Egg in a Bottle (which really would be a great thing to do at parties to stump your friends), Build a Lemon Battery, Unburnable Money, Matchstick Speedboat, Simple Lava Lamp, and Invisible Ink.  There are so many more we want to try!  My plan is to finish them throughout the summer.

I highly, highly recommend Amazing Science! Volume 1.  I can't wait for more from the great folks at  In the meantime, I think I will check out their other DVD sets, which explore science and math instruction.  See for yourself at this site.

Disclaimer:  I was provided with this product in exchange for an honest review, which I've provided here.  No other compensation was provided. 

See what the other reviewers thought of this product here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

God's Great Covenant (NT): A Review

This month I'm reviewing a bible course for children from Classical Academic Press entitled "God's Great Covenant:  New Testament".  This course is laid out in 36 lessons grouped in 4 units.  Perfect for a one year study of the New Testament and the person of Christ.  Each lesson is well researched and well-written, beginning with a theme.  For example, in Week 26, the theme is "The Messiah's way of salvation is accepted by some and rejected by others".  There are several scriptures supporting the theme that are to be read together.  Then there is a specific verse to be memorized.  Key facts are stated for the student to study (always in the chart form--easily distinguished).

For the following day, there is a Storytime Worksheet. 

Then a Review Worksheet with fill in the blank activities assesses the students comprehension of the material. 

The student workbook is printed with large font so it is very easy to read.  It is consumable. The teacher's edition is a replica of the student's book, but includes LOTS of notes in the margin for expanding upon the lessons, as well as blank line space for adding notes.  There are often references to other sources for additional information.

This bible course could easily be done in a 36-week school year, three days per week.  The lessons are of quality--not a lot of fluff (word searches and unscrambling, which I despise).  Just good information presented, analyzed and discussed with the mind and heart and a good, sound assessment at the end of each week.

Classic Academic Press sells this product for $26.95 for the student edition.  The teacher's edition is $29.95 and includes all of the answers to the activities.  Two different products dealing with the Old Testament are also available. 

**Disclaimer:  I was provided with a copy of this product, including the Teacher's Edition, in order to provide an honest review.  No other compensation was provided.

See what the other reviewers had to say about this product here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Christian Kids Explore...Chemistry! (A Review)

This month, I got a chance to review a product from Bright Ideas Press.  This one is "Christian Kids Explore Chemistry".

This curriculum is designed for 4th-8th grade and explores the topics of chemistry tools, matter, elements, mixtures and compounds, atoms, atomic number, atomic mass, the periodic table, chemical bonds, states of matter, chemical reactions, organic chemistry and more.  Each lesson is paired with a hands-on activity. 

Key concepts and vocabulary are introduced at the beginning of each unit.  Each unit is comprised of several smaller lessons.  The lessons follow the same pattern.  Teaching Time introduces the material.  Review It solidifieds these ideas with questions designed to make sure the student is keeping up.  There is an activity or experiment that follows next and then Think About It wraps up the material for that lesson.  At the end of a unit, there is a Wrap Up unit test.  Vocabulary words are defined in a glossary at the margins of the book.  The book comes with a resource CD to make reproducing lessons a snap.

There is also an added literature guide to A Piece of the Mountain, a biography on Blaise Pascal.

I thought that the lessons were reasonable for the age group listed.  If your child is on a more challenging track, they may want to try out something different.  However, for my kids, who have never had any formal chemistry lessons, this would be perfect for them to start out and maybe we could cycle through Chemistry again in high school at a deeper level. 

This curriculum is $39.95 and can be purchased here.  There are also many, many other titles for this age group and other ages as well.

See what my crewmates thought of their products here.

*Disclaimer:  I recieved a digital copy of this curriculum in exchange for an honest review.

Write with World

From the publishers of God's World News and WORLD Magazine comes a new writing curriculum for grades 6-9 called "Write With WORLD".  I like it.  I really like it.  It takes a new approach and is quite different than other things I've seen out there. The more I look at the lessons, the more I want to try it out with my two sons, who are not reluctant to write, but have a difficult time organizing their ideas into a coherent piece.  Plus, they often need concrete guidelines as to what to write about and this program does just that.

Write with WORLD uses what reminds me of  a "journalistic" approach to writing.  Writing based on photographs, current articles and interviews.  And the lessons are broken down into what they call "capsules", very short lessons that can be written in a writer's journal.  The lessons also prepare you for supplies you may need, like Post-it notes, index cards, photographs, a thesaurus, etc.  For students who become easily frustrated with writing, these assignments are not exhaustive.

The curriculum is written by writers from God's World News and WORLD magazine and they speak to the student as "fellow writers".  There is a section in each lesson called "The Right Word" where five new vocabulary words are introduced, so you could use this as a vocabulary curriculum as well.  They also tackle the 20 most common grammar mistakes used by U.S. college students.  So, you could say this is a complete writing/grammar/vocabulary program. 

From the Table of Contents, you can see what topics this curriculum covers:

Table of Contents:



Lesson 1: Reading Images and Advertisements
Lesson 2: Comparative Reading: Sentences
Lesson 3: Comparative and Critical Reading: Paragraphs
Lesson 4: Critical Reading: Essays


Lesson 1: The Paragraph
Lesson 2: Composing and Linking Sentences
Lesson 3: Creating Focus and Arranging Ideas
Lesson 4: Linking Paragraphs: Transitions and Logic


Lesson 1: Reporting Facts
Lesson 2: Creating Character
Lesson 3: Developing Ideas with Specificity
Lesson 4: Writing Autobiography


Lesson 1: Developing a Point of View
Lesson 2: Showing vs. Telling
Lesson 3: Narrative with a Purpose
Lesson 4: Writing a Fictional Narrative



Lesson 1: Working with Controversy
Lesson 2: Conducting Interviews
Lesson 3: Reporting a Story
Lesson 4: Developing a Feature


Lesson 1: Good or Bad, Like or Dislike: Working with Criteria
Lesson 2: Evaluating a Current Event
Lesson 3: Reporting on a Book
Lesson 4: Writing about controversy


Lesson 1: Reading as a Believer and as a Doubter
Lesson 2: Critiquing an Opinion Statement
Lesson 3: Responding to Opinion: Your Voice
Lesson 4: Your Opinion: a Response


Lesson 1: Opportunity, Material, and Reasons
Lesson 2: Writing the Short Essay
Lesson 3: Revealing your thinking and addressing audience concerns
Lesson 4: Writing your Essay
For a sample lesson from Write With WORLD, click here

For $95 per year, you receive a student workbook and a teacher's guide.  For two year's worth of curriculum, you only pay $165.  The teacher's guide is everything the student has in their book, plus marginal notes and lesson plan ideas.  Sometimes the lessons use articles from God's World News or WORLD magazine, but the curriculum could certainly be used independently from these. 

I am currently using a different writing program, but I kind of stopped in my tracks once I took a look at this.  This could really be what we've been searching for!  With full-color, modern and relevant photographs and the "I'm talking directly to you" style from the authors, I think my sons would really respond to this program.  In all, I give it high marks.

See what my Crew-mates thought of this program at this link.

Disclaimer:  I was provided with a review copy of Write With WORLD, Year One.  I have not been required to write a positive review, just an honest one based on our own experience using this product. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

AIMS "From Head To Toe": A Review

The AIMS Educational Foundation has done it again and made me happy with "From Head To Toe"--a biology curriculum for grades 5-9.  This product comes in the form of a 277 page book, consisting of 39 hands-on activities reinforcing knowledge gained about the skeletal, nervous, circulatory, digestive, respiratory, urinary, and sensory systems. 

I love that this book contains a resource CD in the back of the book.  I wish all companies would start doing this!  This eliminates me standing over the copier into the wee hours of the morning, getting the spine of the book all out of shape and usually ending up with distorted copies from flattening the pages.  The resource CD allows you, the teacher, the ability to print just what you need for that day, as many copies as you need.

The student learns new information by reading a short "rubber band book".  These are mini-books that are created simply by folding the paper into quadrants and securing with a rubber band. 

At the start of each activity, the teacher is presented with a page of important data.  What is the topic?  What key information will be presented?  What supplies are necessary to perform experiments?  What benchmarks will be mastered?  What skills will be utilized (reasoning, inferring, observing)?  What background information does the teacher need before leading this lesson?  I really appreciate this page!  I feel empowered to move on, even when my previous knowlege has been lacking in a certain area. 

We are studying the skeletal system through another science curriculum, so when this product came up for review, I chose the activities on the skeletal system as well and they meshed nicely!  The rubber band book reinforced the information that we had just read about, and the activities were fun and different, such as recreating a skeleton using real-size cut-outs of the pelvis, the skull, etc.  Also, hands-on activities using beef bones and chicken wings went along with what we had just learned about marrow and its role within the bone structure.

I have previously reviewed AIMS Educaional Foundation's "Electrical Connections" and gave it high ratings.  "From Head To Toe" has proven to be no exception.  I see a pattern here of consistency and quality, as well as top-notch customer service!  I am anxious to take a look at their "Earth Book" and "Chemistry Matters", which I'm sure will be fantastic.

This product is sold here for $24.95.  I think the value is phenomenal.

**Disclaimer:  I was provided with a review copy of this product in exchange for an honest review. 

See what the other folks at the Homeschool Crew thought about "From Head to Toe" and other products from the AIMS Educational Foundation by clicking here.

Washington, D.C.....The Ultimate History Field Trip!

Our family just arrived home from 8 amazing days in Washington, D.C.  The ultimate history field trip! It was an appropriately-timed trip as we are just now learning about Colonial America leading up to the Revolutionary War.  Gearing up for the trip, we watched movies like "The Conspirator" about the plot to assassinate Lincoln and "Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian".  These got the kids excited about what they would see and hear when we got to our destination.

Day One:  After getting settled in our hotel, the Marriott Shuttle Service took us to Union Station, one of the most beautiful Metro stations in the city.  Like nearly everything else, it was being repaired due to earthquake damage from 2011.  Still, a beautiful example of classical architecture. 

We had a few hours to kill before everything closed up so we headed to the National Gallery of Art.  Here, nearly all the artists that we studied last year and this year were represented.  Botticelli, Bruegel, Renoir, Monet, Cassatt, Rubens, Vermeer, Seurat and even a DaVinci (the only one in America is here--and it's tiny!).  There was more to see in this museum than anyone could see in a week.  We spent most of our time in the French Impressionist room and the Renaissance room, as well as the Dutch room.  They had sculptures, tapestries, and just scores of beautiful paintings.  I'm sorry that we didn't make it to the museum gift shop :(  A word of warning:  You will have to check your bags, but carry your cameras.  We had five cameras and a zoom lens in a camera bag.  We had to stuff our pockets with the cameras and carry around the extra lens.  We were very weighed down.  So, you may just want to arrive there with a small bag and one camera.

Chinatown has the most wonderful food.  And not just Chinese.  Although we did have a very authentic Chinese meal on our first night at Full Kee restaurant.  A rule of thumb, if there are dead animals hanging in the window, it's a good Chinese Restaurant. 

Day Two:  We toured the Museum of American History.  They have a wide array of household items, science tools, toys, uniforms, sports equipment and everything else under the sun from every era.  They also had an impressive display of memorabilia from most presidencies and artifacts from every war from the Revolution to 9/11. 

After lunch, we went out to fly kites for the Smithsonian Kite Festival, a part of the 100th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  There were HUNDREDS of kites out there at the Washington Monument.  A perfect overcast, windy day for kite-flying! 

Then we packed up our kites and started the long walk from the monument, around the tidal basin to the Jefferson Memorial, then around the rest of the tidal basin, through Roosevelt Park past the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, then across the street and over a bit to the Korean War Memorial, which is really several seperate sculptures of KW soldiers walking through a field--kind of like a living, breathing memorial.  We walked up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial.  We were disappointed that they had drained the reflecting pool to repair some leaks, so the photographic opportunities were a little frustrating there, but we've seen Forrest Gump.  We know what it would have been like.  After the Lincoln Memorial (which is way, way bigger than I ever imagined), we walked over to the Vietnam Wall.  It just goes on and on forever.  Be sure to notice the symbols.  They are tiny, but there are diamonds and crosses near each one, which signfiy whether a body was recovered. Or not. 

After a day FULL of walking, we had worked up quite an appetite and headed back to Chinatown for dinner.  This time, we went to Irish Channel, which is a traditional Irish pub, complete with stews, pot pies, fish and chips and lots of locals playing darts and watching sports.  Still, it was very family friendly.  Chinatown is the metro stop for the Verizon Center, so expect to wait for a table of you are arriving on a night where a game is playing down the street.

Day Three:  Sunday.  Nearly everything is free in DC, including the National Zoo. We have a Zoo in Tampa that is not nearly the size of the National Zoo and costs us almost $100 to visit.  So, we were happy to have the opportunity to see Giant Pandas and a nice variety of birds in the aviary, as well as some really up close and personal viewing of a cheetah pair.

After zoo-ing and lunching on Indian food, we visited the National Cathedral, an impeccable example of Gothic architecture, gargoyles and all!  There was a concert in the works, so we were only able to view the exterior this day.  We came back later on to see the inside.  We drove past Embassy Row a few times to see the different embassies.  In the depression, many wealthy families sold over their gorgeous homes to foreign diplomats which became that country's embassy.  Those who were built afterward, were generally built in the style of that country.  If you like architecture, you'll not want to miss strolling or driving down Embassy Row, which is near the Dupont Circle area.

Arlington Cemetery is a must-see.  If you have a car, it's a quick drive, but use your GPS!  Driving in the district is tricky with all it's forks and circles.  If you are taking the Metro, you can connect to a bus.  Once you arrive, you can explore the large grounds for free.  However, for a few extra bucks, you can purchase a tour bus ticket that will allow you to hop-on and hop-off at the major sites:  The Tomb of the Unknowns, the Kennedy site and Robert E. Lee's house.  Also, the bus guides tell you alot of interesting facts as you drive around.  The Changing of the Guard ceremony was taking place every half-hour since we were at peak tourist season, so we got a chance to witness this poignant ceremony.  The Kennedy site is lit with the eternal flame that has been burning ever since JFK's funeral.  Jackie is buried next to him, as well as a stillborn child and their son, Patrick.  We wondered where John, Jr. and his wife were buried?  At the Robert E. Lee house, which is situated at the top of a great hill, you'll find the grave of Pierre L'Enfant, the architect of the city.  This is the best view of Washington, DC that we experienced and made for beautiful photographs.

We went out to U Street, a ethnically-diverse, artsy area of the district and visited a DC landmark, Ben's Chili Bowl.  It's nothing fancy; hot dogs, chili dogs, chili fries, burgers, shakes and pies!  It was just what we were looking for, as we had heard it was good enough for Bill Cosby.  As we made our way out, we were approached by three different men in three different spots for money.  It seems to be a little scary around U Street at night.  Just use common sense.

Day Four:  We spent nearly all day at the Museum of Natural History.  The geology exhibit killed over three hours!  It was pretty much beyond description.  Wall after wall of minerals, metals, gemstones.  If that sounds boring, you'll just have to experience it to understand.  All four of us left there thinking, "wow, I should've become a geologist".  They had a moving exhibit on the Chilean miners, which began by walking into a replica of a real coal mine.  The Hope Diamond is there as well and is the big draw.  Go there as soon as they open so you can get a good look and then explore the rest of the exhibit at a slower pace. 

We also loved the exhibit on bones, which pretty much has a skeleton from every living creature known to man, artfully displayed, categorized and labeled.  Also found here are Egyptian mummies and artifacts, spiders and insects, a walk-through butterfly pavillion (for a small charge), taxidermied mammals from all over the world and a massive oceanic exhibit!  Oh yeah, a huge room of dinosaur fossils.  And a theater on evolution, which we skipped. 

Don't expect to do much else on the day you visit this museum.  Take a quick lunch break and walk across the street to the Ronald Reagan Building.  It has a large food court and for about $9 a person, everyone can get what they want.  Your only other option is a questionable hot dog cart or the overpriced cafe in the Natural History Museum, which unfortunately, we chose and ended up eating dry sandwiches, standing up in the cafe due to lack of seating and spent over $50. As much as I don't like utilizing fast food or food courts on vacation, if you're on or around the mall, there are virtually no other opportunities for eating. 

There was one thing I didn't want to miss on this trip.  And it was Sprinkles Cupcakes.  After hearing about them on Oprah years ago and knowing that they are only in certain cities across America, I knew I couldn't get this close to a Sprinkles and not go!  There was one in Georgetown, which is about a 10 minute walk from the Foggy Bottom/George Washington University metro station.  There are also lots of cute shops and eateries located on this street.  I think it was "M" street?  There was an amazing store called PaperSource right next to Sprinkles, so after we indulged in our seven cupcakes (we got a half-dozen and earned a free one for whispering the secret word-of-the-day, which you can get if you are a Facebook fan), we went next door to look around at PaperSource. There are shops like Benneton, Dean and Deluca and a place called Bridge Street Bookshop.  Georgetown Scoops is an ice cream shoppe that looked awesome, but we were full of cupcakes by this point.  I'm glad we walked out to Georgetown.  It was a nice little upscale shopping district that broke up the days of museums and monuments.

Day Five:  The International Spy Museum is not to be missed, whether or not you have kids with you.  It is VERY interactive, educational and cool. This is not a free museum.  You will pay around $17 for adults and around $9 for kids.  It was well worth it, though.  You'll learn how countries have been using spies since the Trojan Horse and through every war since then.  You'll discover cool gadgets, surveillance tools, disguises, etc.  The museum goes on and on and has one of the nicest gift shops I've ever seen at the end of the tour (you can visit the gift shop without admission to the museum, through a sepearate entrance).  Kids can try to shuffle through overhead air ducts, and they can use computers placed throughout the many levels of the museum to test their skills at all things spy-related.

We had a tour of the Library of Congress scheduled through our local congressman.  This is, in my opinion, hands-down, the most beautiful building in Washington, D.C.  I just finished reading "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson and learned that they were so impressed by the architect who created the "White City" for the Chicago World's Fair in the 1880's, they asked him to design the Library of Congress.  We got a glimpse into the Reading Room but were not allowed to walk in without a library card.  We went through the red tape and got our own library cards across the street at the Madison Building. (Warning...they do not allow people to get library cards for "souvenirs", so make up a good story about some research that you've got to do and you'll get your card!)  FYI:  An excellent place to eat if you're anywhere near Capitol Hill, which is where the library is situated, is BullFeathers.  It is a great place for artsy sandwiches, burgers, etc. and is right there when you come out of he Capitol South metro station.  We went there two days in a row because the kids BEGGED. 

Day Six:  We toured the Capitol Building first thing--another tour scheduled through our Congressman.  Be sure to do this months in advance or you will wait for hours to get tickets.  The building is grand and beautiful, but once you are spoiled by the Library of Congress, everything else seems small-time.  LOL.  Still, the history of the building and the statuary hall with its sculptures and large-scale paintings is something to see. The intern who gave us a private tour led us out onto the balcony where the general public doesn't get to go.  There you can see the whole city and view the area where inaugurations take place.  It was a really nice tour and I recommend doing it for kids who are 10+.  Younger kids may get lost in the vocabulary of Congress, Senate, House, etc.

We planned to go to the Holocaust Museum, but got there and they were out of tickets.  So, we did the highlights of the Air and Space Museum.  We have a very, very nice air museum called Fantasy of Flight just 20 minutes from our house, so we feel like we've "done" a nice air/space museum already, but it was nice to see Amelia Earhart's Vega and the Wright Brothers have their own room devoted to the history of their glider.  Also, we needed a snack and they have a massive McDonald's (again, eww...didn't want to do a chain restaurant, but we were famished and needed to sit down)

We jetted back out to the National Cathedral (it's worth it to take a taxi out here--the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park subway stations are still quite a trek).  This time, we got a glimpse into the jaw-dropping interior of this cathedral.  Pictures and descriptions do it absolutely no justice.  Just go. 

Take advantage of one of the many free walking tours you can do through DC by Foot!  We did a nighttime Lincoln Assasination Tour that took us to all the major sites of the conspiracies and ended up two-hours later at Ford's Theatre.  Our guide, Erin, was a phenomenal story-teller and provided facts, photos and terrific suspense as we learned more than we ever thought there was to know about that fateful night. 

Day Seven:  We spent all day at Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington for more than 45 years.  Mount Vernon is accessible by subway with a bus transfer.  Take the yellow line all the way to the end--Huntington station.  Then take the Fairfax 101 bus another 20 minutes out to Mt. Vernon if you don't have your own car.  The metro ride will require another dollar or so since it's not considered a "short trip" like all of our other outings.  And the bus fare will cost you about $1.80 per person.  Well worth it. 

At Mt. Vernon, we toured the gardens, the mansion, the farm area and got to take the "National Treasure 2:  Book of Secrets" tour, which showed the many places in the movie where Mount Vernon is used.  We got to go into the basement, the only tour that allows you access to this area, as well as a glimpse of the old ice house and a walk down to the Potomac River wharf.  We saw the tombs of Mr. and Mrs. W. and spent alot of time petting their exotic sheep.  The place is just beautiful.  The inside had a very state of the art theatre, showing 4-D short films on the Revolution and many other movies to give you background about the Revolution and George Washington's participation in it.  The museum had over 700 artifacts from almost 5 decades of living on the property.  For lunch, you can choose the Colonial-themed restaurant or a food court.  The nicer restaurant will give you more of an experience, the food is wonderful, and the prices were about $10-$12 a person, what you would find for lunch in any restaurant in DC.

Day Eight:  Busy day!  We stood in line early for Holocaust Museum tickets and acquired them for later on in the day!  My husband stood in line at the same time for Bureau of Engraving and Printing tickets, but they "sold out" fast.  They are free, but they only give out so many.  They were gone by 8:30am.  We took a quick tour of the U.S. Botanical Gardens, which was a nice way to kill time until our White House tour. 

It's a bit tricky doing the White House tour because you can't bring ANYTHING but a phone, car keys and wallet with you.  No bags from any other stores or museums.  No backpacks, purses, diaper bags, food, etc.  We had to bring granola bars in a plastic bag from the hotel and then throw everything away.  Somehow I made it through the 3 security checkpoints with a lipstick in my pocket, even though that was prohibited.  Photography is not allowed inside and your phone will be confiscated by Secret Service if you are caught.  However, once you are outside (the tour spits you out on the front lawn of the White House), you can take photographs of your family with the house in the background.  The tour is quick--blink and you will miss it!  You tour the Blue Room, The East Dining Hall, The Red Room, The Green Room, and one of the halls with lots of historical photographs of various presidents.  They were preparing for the Easter Egg Roll, which was taking place the following day, so their were all sorts of signs that said "Egg Roll".  My kids wanted to know why the White House was promoting Chinese food.  LOL. 

After the White House, we were very impressed with ourselves, travelling so light.  We headed to the Old Post Office Building, a mega-huge building that looks like a cathedral and is supposed to have a wonderful view of the city (the best you can get now that the Washington Monument is closed for viewing).  It has a food court inside, but we were gravely disappointed in the selection.  They did have a Ben and Jerry's so we had ice cream for lunch and moved on.....

Next came the Holocaust Museum.  Plan to spend about 3 hours here, as you will want to really understand everything.  Yes, there is graphic violence and nudity depicted in the many photographs you will see.  You will see lots of images that will disturb you to tears, and that's what I wanted my kids to see.  I wanted them to see the truth.  Upon arriving, you will get a passport book of a real Holocaust prisoner.  You learn their story and their fate as you read more.  There are several levels to explore, several short films to watch, a train car to walk through, and a museum shop.  The boys got to meet a Holocaust survivor, Miriam Winter and purchased her book.  They asked questions the whole time and were completely engaged in the experience.  I am very, very glad we all went.  We saw the photo and inscription at the entrance of the building of a security guard that was fatally shot in 2010 by a Holocaust-denier, racist-animal.  Being a guard at this museum is dangerous business.  Your not just showcasing skeletons and rocks.  You're presenting a reality which some people still want to deny and attack.  It's just the same kind of violence and ignorance that started the whole mess.  For those with younger children, there is an exhibit called "Daniel's Story", which is a tour through the pre-war and post-war life of an 11 year old Jewish boy.  There are things to touch and diaries to read as you walk through the different rooms.  I thought this was very well done for children. 

Try to make it over to Cowgirl Creamery in Penn Quarter!  We took the Gallery Place/Chinatown subway and exited toward Gallery Place.  It spits you out right in front of Ella's Wood-Fired Pizza, where we had dinner.  If you walk around the corner to the left, there is Cowgirl Creamery, an artisan cheese shop that gives free samples and sells all things cheese, and all things that go with cheese!  We bought a half-pound of Wagon Wheel and smuggled it into Ella's Pizza to much on for an appetizer.  It was scrumptious!

After dinner, Dave and Denver went back out to view the monuments at night and take photos.  Me and Solomon aren't feeling so hot, so we head back to the hotel. 

Day Nine:  We are all officially sick now and luckily, have a slow-paced day of travel ahead.  We don't know it at the time, but we all have whooping cough.  We think of the number of taxis, subways, buses, airports and restaurants we have visited over the last week and cringe.  Where did we get it?  Who did we give it to?  We thought at the time that we just wore ourselves out and made ourselves sick with exhaustion.  But it was more than that.  Not the kind of souvenir one wants to bring back home..

Even with the cough, we had an amazing time, learned alot and got to experience some pretty cool things.  For the boys, their world-view was widened a little more.  I'm always jealous of how much they've experienced at their age.  I wonder how my life would be different if I would have learned about history and science at a younger age.  It seems the school system thought my brain wasn't ready for that until high school, but by that point, it was too late.  I only cared about boys and Aussie hairspray and New Kids on the Block.  Ah....hindsight.