Friday, November 16, 2018

Holiday Unit Studies are Fantastic for Homeschooling! – A Review of Homeschool Complete Christmas Unit Study



If you are looking for an all-inclusive curriculum as a Christian parent, Homeschool Complete might be the perfect fit for your family. Thematic units contain lesson plans that cover multiple subjects including mathematics, language arts, and physical education. There are a variety of activities in each unit to help you really meet the needs of your individual child and family. Because Homeschool Complete offers such great flexibility I was very happy to review their Christmas Unit Study (K-6).



What is in the Christmas Unit Study?


The unit study is designed for K-6 grades with a variety of activities to accommodate beginning, intermediate, and advanced level students. For example, while both our children could work on saying the sounds for Lesson 4 in Part A of the student workbook, our five-year-old was able to read the words and we were able to complete the fill in the blank questions, too. And our three-year-old daughter (with help) was able to complete the matching activity (Worksheet 4a). As they get older, we will be able to reuse the Christmas Unit Study and look at the section on contractions and comparison of three digit numbers from Lesson 4.

At the heart of the Christmas Unit Study is the story of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke. Each lesson introduces new parts of Luke to your children so you can work on memorizing it (or just enjoying it like we did). After the reading of Luke, there are a number of different activities you can complete for the different subject areas.

Sample Activities and Lessons


There are so many great ideas and activities in the lessons that I could see this unit study lasting more than the recommended two weeks for our family. As both our children are younger, we have been spending a short amount of time on the lessons each day spread throughout the entire day. In fact, we were able to complete one of the activities while waiting for dinner to finish baking. How is that for flexibility for the homeschooling family?

Flexibility and adaptability are two of my favorite things about homeschooling. I was able to adapt some of the reading of vocabulary activities to also include writing for our five-year-old. For example, in Lesson 1, one of the activities lists asks the child(ren) to read eighteen words. I wrote out some of these words in our son's notebook for him to read and write.



Some of the activities in the lessons include the following:

  • Read a recipe and make gingerbread cookies 
  • Count the days until Christmas using a paper chain 
  • Put words in alphabetical order 
  • Read A Christmas Tale by Geronimo Stilton 
  • Play Alphabet Toss 

Learning about positive and negative space using stencils and tracing objects.


Coloring ornaments


What We Like


From the Daily Calendar Routine to the ideas for physical education activities, we are really enjoying the Christmas Unit Study. We really enjoyed working on the different art projects such as using stencils and cut-out shapes to create positive and negative spaces as well as creating paper ornaments for our tree. 

Establishing a daily routine of identifying the date, days of the week, and months of the year has been a great thing to add to our homeschool day. We had been working on these skills but now the kids ask for each day if I should forget ever since we started using the Christmas Unit Study. 
  • Each lesson lists the materials needed (for example, the books, crafting supplies, worksheets, or even baking supplies) 
  • Very adaptable 
  • Each lesson lists the skills – so if you are looking for something specific to work on you can just reference the first page of each lesson 
  • Variety of books recommended and used 
  • Lessons include language arts, math, and physical activities 

Learning about time and making a clock


Our five-year-old son said his favorite part of the Christmas Unit Study has been learning how to read a clock. I think working on this particular skill has allowed him to feel more grown-up as he is navigating the world of time more and more on his own. Our three-year-old daughter enjoys any project that allows her to draw, color, or create something – which this unit study has plenty for her!

Personally, I would recommend the Christmas Unit Study for families from Homeschool Complete. I find it has been a perfect fit for us as we approach the holiday season. I look forward to continuing to use the activities in the different lessons as we get closer to December 25. 





How do you spend the month of December? Do you use unit studies or take a break from homeschooling? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Gift Guide When Shopping for Teenage Boys



Shopping for others can be somewhat daunting and challenging. As our own children get older – or those in our family grow up, it can be difficult to pick out the perfect gift they will love and use – especially if they are a teenage boy.

What is your go-to gift for a teen boy? Do you ask the teen? Sometimes it might be easy because the parents will tell us they are saving up for something – a new gaming platform, sporting equipment, or a concert or trip. Other times they might even have an online wishlist. But what if they don't make it easy?

For the Gamer



The one thing our teen seems to go through is Xbox controllers. Perhaps you know of a young man who is also hard on their gaming controller? If it is within your budget you could purchase a new controller or a gift card to go towards a new one. They even make custom ones.

Headsets are a great option for teens who are allowed to play online games with their friends and family. And just like controllers, they often break and need to be replaced.

If the teenage boy has a favorite video game series, you can bet there are product tie-ins. For example, our son has a Destiny watch and socks. Other gaming series that sell merchandise include Fallout, Minecraft, and Bioshock.



For the Reader


Depending on whether or not your teen enjoys reading, you may or may not find our suggestions helpful. We have struggled for many years trying to find books that our teen enjoys to read for fun. While he liked the Harry Potter series, he wasn't reading them nonstop to find out what happened to Harry and his friends. However, he does enjoy Star Wars comics and reading books about World War II. This recommended reading list has been my husband's go-to list since he was a teen himself. We have provided several suggestions from it for our teen son.

Comics are also a great choice – I recommend finding your local comic book store and supporting them. We are fortunate enough to have one in our town.

 

 For the Sports Enthusiast


To go along with the gaming theme, you could get a custom Xbox controller if your teen is into the NFL. And of course clothing is always a great idea when it comes to buying gifts for growing teens. From t-shirts and hoodies to jerseys and hats, there is such a variety of items available for any sports fan to wear to show their team pride. There are also fun items like Fathead decals or a tabletop foosball table.




Other Fun Ideas


One thing our teen can't seem to get enough of is candy. We don't buy it for him often – usually just the holidays – so candy would be a great gift idea. Even snacks you ordinarily wouldn't buy make for a great gift (and are perfect for snacking during the winter break!).

For the artist, new sketchpads, art pencils and pens, or other drawing materials is a great idea. For the musician, maybe a new case for their instrument or music by their favorite band.

Do your teens have a favorite gift they have received?


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Club: Review of Kate's Really Good At Hockey


Disclaimer: I received access to the e-book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

I recently joined NetGalley after reading it about for a short while and have had the privilege to review a few books through this medium. The first book I reviewed was Kate's Really Good At Hockey by Christina Frey and Howard Shapiro. It is a graphic novel about the life of Kate and her best summer ever! She is getting the opportunity to attend an elite girls' hockey game in Denver and play with and against some of the best female hockey players in the world. 


Kate's Really Good At Hockey is a graphic novel that details the events of Kate's experiences just prior to and during her summer hockey camp. We follow Kate, her mom, her grandma, and teammates on a journey where she discovers herself through creating new friendships. Her original desires of staying in the dorms are squelched as her mom wants her to stay with her grandma. This change is actually beneficial to their relationship and Kate's time at camp. 



As an adult, I will admit that I knew something was up when Kate's mom insisted she stay with her grandma but I didn't foresee both of the reveals. Perhaps an elementary school-aged student (who I would think this is geared towards) would not be as quick to think something was up. 



Best. Summer. Ever. 

I like the dedication that Kate displays – even in the face of adversity – and would think she could be inspirational for young hockey players. There is a focus on family and friendship as well as dedication to dreams. I would recommend this book to children interested in hockey, but I would encourage parents to read it first because it deals with some complex issues. 



SPOILER

SPOILER 


Kate's grandma has cancer. This may be a topic of concern if family members have experienced it or lost a loved one to it. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Z is for Zhou Dynasty (Blogging through the Alphabet)

photo of bamboo and tea cup


This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

One of the ancient civilizations that often seems to get glossed over in American classrooms is that of Ancient China. Perhaps that is why – when I was teaching high school world history – I made sure to spend several weeks talking about the different dynasties of Ancient China, including the Xia, Shang, Zhou, Han, and Qin. The early history of China saw the reign of two main dynasties: Xia and Shang but by the 11th century BC, the Zhou people led an overthrow of the Shang Dynasty.

A leader of the Zhou people, who lived in the western side of Shang controlled territory, put into place a plan to overthrow the Shang dynasty. Tai, the leader, presented a plan where they would achieve their goal over the next three generations. The Zhou people felt they were more deserving of the power and set about to take it. In this post, we will take a look at why the Zhou people believed they had been handed the "mandate of heaven."

Overthrowing the Shang Dynasty 


A number of factors – such as the migration of the Zhou people – increased communication and interaction with other peoples in the Shang dynasty (building up both a political alliance and the development of resources in the process). Around 1045 BC, under King Wu, the Zhou people launched a war against the Shang dynasty. King Wu gave a speech to his army which set out to overthrow the Shang capital.

There is historical evidence of the speech and the description of the violent battle that ensued. Blood supposedly flowed so that blocks of wood floated in it and swords and axes made of bronze caused great wailing and screaming. The Shang king was killed and the Zhou were in charge.


Leading the New Dynasty 


Even though King Wu was the ruler he was only a boy at the time of the conquest. The Duke of Zhou, King Wu's uncle, was probably the most important person in the new dynasty as he acted as a wise adviser to his young nephew.

"Mandate of Heaven" 


One of the reasons why the Zhou felt justified in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty became one of the central doctrines of Chinese political culture. This was the "mandate of heaven." Tian, or heaven, was not so much a place as it was a system that governed all the operations in the universe. There was a proper way for society to be organized and a good ruler was key.

The king had to be a good king – a good ruler. The power to rule was given to a good king by Tian and was passed down from generation to generation to create a dynasty. These rulers were to maintain peace and prosperity according to the mandate or their right to rule would be taken away from them. They had rights as rulers such as taxation but it was not to be oppressive according to Tian belief.

King Wu used this idea – the "mandate of heaven" – to explain why they had the right to overthrow the Shang dynasty. In his speech prior to the battle at the capital, he states the Shang had become cruel and the ruler only indulged in his own past-times.

 


Growth of Zhou Dynasty 


A new capital was established by the Zhou on the Wei River. They created Xian to be a permanent capital, unlike that of the Shang who had shifted the capital city every few decades. They also extended their power south and north as they conquered new lands. But as their empire grew, the problems they had planted with the idea of political justification of overthrowing a bad ruler through the "mandate of heaven" would come to fruition and they would be overthrown themselves.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out these other history-related posts!

  


Image of bamboo and tea by δΊ”ηŽ„εœŸ ORIENTO on Unsplash



Thursday, November 8, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of Lady of a Thousand Treasures

Book cover of Lady of a Thousand Treasures


Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

I really enjoy historical fiction – perhaps it is because I was a history major and a history teacher – so I jumped at the chance to review Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd from Tyndale Fiction. The novel is centered around Eleanor Sheffield, an evaluator of antiquities, and her attempt to advance her family business and make an important decision regarding a "thousand treasures." We also meet Harry, Lord Lydney, and many other people important to Eleanor's story.

"A threading of voices spooled throughout the expansive chamber wherein we waited..." 

The novel opens in 1866 in Oxfordshire, England, and we quickly learn that Eleanor is the temporary trustee of the Late Lord Lydney's collection of art, armor, jewelry, silver, and other antiquities. She must decide whether the treasures stay at the house – Watchfield – with Lord Lydney's surviving son (Harry) or if they should be donated to the new South Kesington Museum. Both choices provide Eleanor with advantages and disadvantages. So what will she choose? It is a difficult decision for Eleanor. What would you choose?

The plot, while surrounding missing antiquities, fake urns and coins, is also a love story between a middle class lady and a new Lord. Throw in an ailing uncle, new servants, Italians fleeing war, and money issues and you will find you cannot put down Lady of a Thousand Treasures because you want to see what happens next. There are so many wonderful small and big moments in the story that made me keep reading well past my bedtime.


I love that we get to know all the characters through their conversations with Eleanor and her thoughts about the characters and their actions. Books where we really get to know the characters are so great to read.

I recommend this book to those interested in historical fiction – especially of the Victorian Era as Lady of a Thousand Treasures is part of the Victorian Ladies Series Collection. I found the book to be a quick, good read.

Learn more about the author – Sandra Byrd – by visiting the following sites:



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Looking Back on a Year with the Homeschool Review Crew



This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

A year ago, I filled out an application to join the Homeschool Review Crew after seeing a post from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I wrote a course for SchoolhouseTeachers.com and figured why not see if I would be accepted to the Crew.


Reflection 


Now – a year later, I can reflect upon all the things I have learned.  And I have learned so many different things! From homeschooling to blogging to parenting – the Crew has helped me grow as a wife, a mom, a blogger, a homeschooler, and a teacher. I have made new friends and for that I am very grateful, as well. 

My blog has become more regular – and not just because members of the Crew need to have at least one non-review blog post a week. I have found a renewed love of writing about history (hence my focus on the Blogging through the Alphabet with history-themed posts). And I get to create materials for families and teachers to use again (one of my favorite parts of being a teacher was writing and designing curriculum). I have also been able to grow A Mom's Quest to Teach on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest




A Few Favorite Products 


Our children have enjoyed using so many of the products that we had the privilege of reviewing this past year. There are still days when our daughter will talk about her 'bear program' aka  MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS from Panda Parents and our five-year-old son is still using Home School Navigator, Reading Kingdom, and Picta Dicta on a regular basis as part of our homeschooling. As a family we still enjoy Drive Thru History Adventures, while the Audio Dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions have become a welcome addition to our audio library.

Home School in the Woods - Hands-on History Lap-Paks (Knights)


As a family who enjoys role-playing games like classic Dungeons and Dragons, our younger son has really had a great time learning about real knights. I love that we can reference this while playing games or watching movies so he can learn more about the history behind one of his favorite hobbies.

In addition to the Hands-on History Lap-Paks (Knights), we also received several A La Carte Projects that enabled us to play games together as a family. This is one of the best parts of homeschooling – having more time to learn together as a family!





Carole P. Roman Books


As a history major and teacher, I just love these books from Carole P. Roman. And after I wondered if there were any books with a female character as the main character in my review, Ms. Roman was nice enough to send me a few books where girls told the story. This was totally unexpected and greatly appreciated. I will not hesitate to recommend her books to anyone interested in learning more about history or geography!


More Than Just Reviews 


Through my time with the Crew, our family has done more than just review the products merely to review them. We have used them to help us grow and learn as a homeschooling family. Through some of the different projects our teen and I have grown closer (even when I beat him playing the The War to End All Wars File Folder Game). And our two younger children have enjoyed starting their homeschooling journey with a love of learning. Learning really has been fun in our house.

If you are interested in learning more about joining the Homeschool Review Crew, please see the information here


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Creating a Masterpiece with Kidzaw.com: A Review of Master Kitz The Starry Night

Master Kitz The Starry Night

One of our children's favorite things to do is create art. They were so excited when the box arrived containing Master Kitz The Starry Night produced by Kidzaw.com! Our five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter couldn't wait to take everything out of the very well-made box to explore the different materials included. Children and adults (ages 5-105) will have a great time learning about the artist, creating an individual masterpiece, and sharing their work with family and friends just like we did.

Master Kitz The Starry Night Materials

Master Kitz The Starry Night Materials What Do You Get with Master Kitz The Starry Night

  • Reusable Artist's Tool Box 
  • "Instructions Inspiration" in English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian 
  • The "Instructions Inspiration" in English is a foldout, colorful poster-size paper
  • Van Gogh Learning Materials (biography and a presentation of the styles of Van Gogh compared to other artists)  
  • Two rollers – a plain yellow sponge one and a custom Van Gogh roller 
  • Paint (in custom blue, black, and white)
  • Oil Pastels (in white, blue, yellow, and orange)
  • Two pieces of 16" by 20" paper for your artwork 
  • Sheet of temporary star stickers 
  • Stencil for countryside scene 




Master Kitz The Starry Night Materials

Creating a Masterpiece


When our Master Kitz The Starry Night first arrived, we took everything out of the box and looked through it all. Our younger two children and I talked about the different products and what they would be used for in the kit. I then laid out the rolled up paper to flatten out under books. A few days later we read through the information on Vincent Van Gogh and watched the videos on Kidzaw.com to see some examples. Our five-year-old son was very excited to see all the different products that are available. (We want to try the Claude Monet one in the future!)

Painting with rollers
After putting on the temporary stickers, you need to paint your paper with the special roller using the blue and then white paints to create the night time sky.

I was very happy that everything we needed was included in the reusable box. So if you wanted to create your artwork the moment it arrived, you could very easily roll the art paper back and forth a few times in the opposite direction, as the instructions suggest, to get started right away.

The directions are broken down into 12 steps for you and your family. From preparing your work space to using the different rollers, paint colors, and oil pastels, the information is clearly presented with illustrations and text to let you know what to do.

Using stencil to create The Starry Night painting
Once the temporary stars have been removed, you attach the stencil and paint the scene using the black paint and the yellow sponge roller. 

Our children's favorite part was getting to paint using the rollers with the different colors. If they had been a little more proficient with the rollers, we would have seen the pattern of the Van Gogh roller show a bit more in the final product. They tended to use the rollers more like paint brushes rather than rollers.

Using oil pastels
The final part was adding the finishing touches to the stars and buildings and trees using the oil pastels. 

Using Oil Pastels

We are all really pleased with the completed products. They look beautiful! 

The Starry Night Painting by five-year-old
Our five-year-old son's masterpiece

Our Thoughts


It was definitely helpful to have our teen helping our two younger children create their masterpieces. The recommended age is 5 to 105 so it was a bit complicated for our three-year-old daughter but with my help and her older brother's help, we were able to help her follow the inspiration.

I love the way the finished masterpieces turned out! The only problems we seemed to have was the temporary stickers were too attached to our paper when we tried to remove them. The paper tore a little as our teen and I were removing them from the two paintings. This then meant our fingers were covered with blue paint as we tried to slowly remove the stickers.

As our two younger children get older, I would purchase another Master Kitz from Kidzaw.com. They enjoyed getting to paint – to use different materials and techniques – to create their own masterpiece. I loved that we could allow them to be creative but still learn about a famous artist and his work.

Reviewing Master Kitz The Starry Night also started a conversation up with an aunt-in-law through which I learned that The Starry Night is her favorite art piece. I love learning new things about the people in my family. And that is one of the features of the Master Kitz – Learn – Create – Share.

Our three-year-old daughter's masterpiece

To Find Out More Please Visit



Because each artwork created can look different – which is a great feature of using Master Kitz – please be sure to check out the the other reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew!




Friday, November 2, 2018

Y is for Yorktown (Blogging through the Alphabet)

General Washington


This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Many of the locations in the United States of America were named for places overseas. This is true of places such as Birmingham, Alabama; Canterbury, Connecticut; Concord, Massachusetts; and Yorktown, Virginia. Of course, in addition to English names we also find influence of the Spanish, French, and German settlers – as well as others. The historic town of Yorktown, which sits upon the York River, is important to American history because it is the last major battle of the American Revolution.

There are many excellent resources to use when studying the Colonial and American Revolutionary time periods of American history. And there are so many different aspects one could study when learning about the Revolutionary War but learning about the last major battle – the Siege of Yorktown is extraordinarily important. In September and October of 1781, the combined military forces of the Americans and French led the Yorktown campaign which would ultimately see Lord Cornwallis surrender.

General Washington and Count de Rochambeau
General Washington and Comte de Rochambeau 

Land Attack 


The British at Yorktown were vulnerable to both land attacks and a blockade by sea. This combined attack on the British started in late September 1781 with General George Washington's American forces and Lieutenant General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau's French forces surrounding Yorktown.

Blockade by Sea 


Cornwallis was hopeful that the relief forces being sent from New York would arrive to assist the British. He had received notice from General Clinton, commander in chief of the British Army, that men would be sent from New York but he failed to realize that a blockade would prevent the troops from arriving. The French fleet, under Admiral Francois Joseph, Comte de Grasse, prevented the British ships from providing the relief British soldiers.

Siege of Yorktown

Artillery Barrage 


The Franco-American forces attack moved closer to Yorktown as Cornwallis abandoned his trenches further out and moved closer to the York River. This allowed the French and American soldiers to move the cannons closer to fire upon the city. So from early to mid-October, the Franco-American forces fired upon Cornwallis and the British defenses crumbled. British food and ammunition were running low and there was no sign of reinforcements being able to make their way to Cornwallis.

Surrender at Yorktown

Surrender 


On October 17, 1781, Lord Cornwallis asked for terms of surrender. Two days later, on October 19, approximately 8,000 British troops surrendered. This was the last large battle of the American Revolution. Some fighting would continue for two more years until the formal peace treaty was signed in 1783 but this was the last major action between the Revolutionaries and the British.


Today you can visit Yorktown Battlefield which is part of Colonial National Historic Park in Virginia.

Images from WPClipart.com

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like: 



  






Monday, October 29, 2018

Orange, red, and yellow leaves fall to the ground...November Writing Prompts

Notebook and turkey clip art


With leaves falling all around you and your children, perhaps you could use some inspiration for your writing tasks for the month of November. Or maybe the snow has already started falling where you live. This month I am sharing several photographs and a new, free resource for you and your family. 


Happy Writing! 




Frost covered leaves

winding road through a fall forest

basket of veggies



If you or your children are inspired by any of the photographs or prompts, I would love to hear about it! Thank you.

Friday, October 26, 2018

X is for Xerxes (Blogging through the Alphabet)

City of Persepolis

Who would have thought that one of the letters that was the easiest for me to decide upon was the letter X? When I was preparing my list for this series of Blogging through the Alphabet, I knew the Persian king, Xerxes, would be a perfect choice. However, I did not realize that finding information about him would prove to be difficult if I wasn't relying up on the Internet.

Xerxes I ruled the Persian Empire from 486 BC, when he succeeded his father Darius I, to 465 BC, when he was assassinated. While he was king, he expanded the Persian Empire to include territory from modern-day Turkey and the North African coast all the way to the Indus River Valley. He also led a war against the Greek city-states. The land and sea force that Xerxes raised to attack the Greeks included more than 180,000 men.

Map of the Persian Empire


There are perhaps two things for which Xerxes is most remembered – the continuation of building his father's city and the capture and burning of Athens in 480 BC. 

sculpture from Persepolis

Persepolis 


The third capital of the Persian Empire – Persepolis – was started by Darius I. When Xerxes took over the empire, he continued to work on completing the city. It is believed that Xerxes finished the work on the Treasury and its surrounding buildings. The city would disappear from history when Alexander the Great covered the city by earth but it would be excavated in the 1940s. In Persepolis, we see the diversity of the empire represented in the variety of architectural styles. One can find a great palace complex that holds offices, treasuries, reception halls, and audience halls. 

Attack on Greek City-States 


Perhaps the Spartans that faced Xerxes' troops at the mountain pass of Thermopylae are remembered more than the Persian king is? At the Battle of Thermopylae, Spartans held back the Persian troops as they marched south from Macedonia until a traitor told Xerxes of another pass through the mountains. 

The Persians were able to push towards Athens. They captured and burned the city – including the Acropolis.  Even though the Persians were victorious over the Athenians on land, things would not work out in their favor at sea.

Greek trireme

Approximately 1000 Persian ships sailed from home and they met the Greeks in the Bay of Salamis. The Greeks had a fleet of 20 triremes which were better suited to maneuvering in the bay. The Greeks were able to crush the Persian fleet while Xerxes watched from shore. With the defeat, he returned to Asia Minor. The Persians would never attack the Greek city-states again.

I created a Emperors of Persia Handout for you to download this week! It lists the emperors from Cyrus the Great to Darius III.