Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Son the YouTube Sensation!

Joshua 3

Joshua, our middle child, has always been his own person. “Aspies ” people with Asperger’s Syndrome – on the Autism Spectrum) always tend to march to a different drummer and Joshua is no different. They are sometimes referred to as “little geniuses” because they will become interested in something and then want to learn all they can about that particular topic. They become obsessed about their new found interest and do internet research, read books, watch videos, talk to people – you name it – about their fascinating topic. Joshua’s topics have ranged from Thomas the Train when he was little to helicopters, football, WWE Wrestling, trains, and, more recently, geography and languages. He is presently in 8th grade, is a geography expert (at least compared to me) and is learning Russian.

One thing that he became interested in (that thankfully didn’t become an obsession) was video challenges. You know, the ones where someone tries something unusual, like the salt and ice challenge or the cinnamon challenge? Most of those challenges are gross and can be dangerous so I won’t allow him to do them unless I have done some research and there is adult supervision. One thing that I do allow, is tasting hot sauces or hot foods. You see, one of the unique things about some aspies is that they have very acute senses. Joshua loves very hot foods and even takes his medications with things like Worchester Sauce and Soy Sauce. So I have allowed him to tape himself tasting hot things and posting them on YouTube.

I am pleasantly surprised at how well he does. It almost seems like he has a natural presence on camera. He even posts his bloopers that can be quite funny. He has developed a small following on his YouTube channel. Below are a few of his videos for your viewing pleasure. If you like them then please subscribe to his YouTube Channel. His goal is to get 100 subscribers. Here is the YouTube Channel address - Thanks ahead of time for becoming one of his subscribers if you should choose to do so. I know that he would absolutely be thrilled to have you follow him. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Alpha Omega Review

I have been known to daydream! I know that comes as a complete surprise to those of you who know me well. After all, you all know me as a serious, get down to business, no nonsense person don’t you? No? Oh well.

But seriously, as a homeschool parent I do think about the teachers, teaching methods and curriculum that really clicked with me as a learner, and how I can make learning fun and affective for my kids. When we were given the opportunity to review the Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set by Alpha Omega Publications I really liked what I saw. It reminded me of the spelling and vocabulary books that I had and loved when I was a kid. I thought it would be a perfect fit for my youngest Jacob. Unfortunately it wasn’t, but that was not the fault of this wonderful curriculum, it was completely my fault. Let me explain by telling you why I like Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary and then I’ll explain what I did wrong.

Why I Really Like Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set.

It reminds me of the spelling curriculum that I used to use. – As I mentioned above, it worked for me and I loved it. A lot of good advancements have been made in home education and, if you do your homework, you can find curriculum and teaching styles that will fit any child and make them soar. However, sometimes the old tried and true ways are the best ways for a child.

Do you remember the spelling books where things were sequential? Where you took a pretest at the beginning of the week, had review activities throughout the week, then took the real test at the end of the week? Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary is that type of book.

  • It is very sequential. – It starts out with short vowel words, continues with long vowel words, then goes in to diphthongs and blends. This is no willy – nilly list of words that don’t make sense together. I like that and learned best that way.
  • There is an activity to do every day. – The child first takes a pretest to see what they know, and then have activities to do each day. They might be spelling out the words that match a picture, filling in the blank in a sentence, finding words that rhyme or doing some other creative activity. On Day One they assess the child’s knowledge and introduce the words. Day Two they examine and explore the words. Day 3 they look at the context and meaning of each word. Day 4 they apply understanding of words in writing. Day 5 they assess and evaluate progress. Every few weeks is a review week to review words previously learned. The tried and true way that I learned spelling.
  • The student workbook is to be used up. - The neat thing about this curriculum is that it comes in a workbook where you can write in the workbook itself or tear out the pages and fill them in. I remember when I was young we had to have a separate notebook to copy things into. Copying is a pain and is hard for some kids to do.
  • This is a Christian Curriculum. – Unfortunately even in my day, many many moons ago, curriculum companies couldn’t use much that was religious in their books. I like how there are sentences and activities that are Christian based with Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set. It isn’t forceful or trying to stretch things to put something Christian in, but it is definitely there and definitely used. That is something that I didn’t have in my day but really like.
  • The Teacher’s Manual and Spelling and Vocabulary Dictionary that comes with this set are great. - The teacher’s manual is very easy to use. There is nothing left to chance. Everything that is to be done is spelled out and the answers to all of the workbook pages are there. There are even extended activities that can be done if a child needs extra help. The Spelling and Vocabulary Dictionary is very handy and contains every word that is used and covered in the spelling and vocabulary book.
Alpha Omega Review

Why Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set didn’t work with Jacob.

So, why didn’t this fantastic curriculum work with Jacob? Well, there are three reasons and none of them has to do with this curriculum.

1. Dad was too optimistic. – I did my research before requesting this review and thought that Jacob was ready for this level. He wasn’t. Close, but not banana. We could struggle through it and get by, but that would be torture for Jacob and for me. That is the main reason why this great curriculum didn’t work for us.

2. It doesn’t fit his learning style. – I have always been an advocate of making sure that you fit curriculum to a child, you don’t try to force a child into a curriculum. That’s one of the reasons why we homeschool. We can choose what is best for each of our children. This is a fantastic curriculum that I believe will work wonderfully for most children, but this just didn’t fit Jacob. He fought tooth and nail every time we tried to sit down and work.

3. Jacob has some small motor issues. – Not as bad as our middle child, but still enough to make extended writing activities painful. Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set doesn’t have a terrible amount of writing, but it was a little too much for Jacob.

Okay, having said all of that, guess what? I am still going to use this with Jacob! I love the sequential system that Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set uses so I am going to adapt some of the activities and use them orally and even have him do some of the pages that don’t require as much writing. It may be a slow process and we may not do a week’s worth of pages in a week, but I really think he can learn from this!

As I said before, I think that Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary can be used in almost any homeschool with almost any child. To find out more about this great curriculum, click on any of the highlighted links above. To read about what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about this and other curriculum by Alpha Omega Publications click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

Alpha Omega Review
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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Well I’ll Be A Slender-Tailed Meerkat!

We have been blessed to be able to spend a week in beautiful Omemee, Ontario, Canada at Mill Stream Bible Camp for the past three years where I have taught Bible and Sarah has worked in the kitchen. It has been a real blessing to our family. Each year, after our week of camp is over, the director and his wife, Larry and Cindy Chupa, graciously allow us to stay a few extra days and explore the surrounding area. Our first year, when enquiring as to where to go that would be interesting, Cindy suggested the Peterborough Zoo. Peterborough, a town about a half hour away, actually has it’s own zoo and park owned by the city called the Riverview Park and Zoo or The Peterborough Zoo. It is a fantastic little zoo that not only has over 135 animals, but also has a huge playground and a lot of picnic space. And it fits right into our budget since it is absolutely free! Our first year we took a really nice picture of our three boys in front of one of the climbing rocks in the playground. It turned out so well that we decided to recreate it last year and then again this year. However, when putting together the collage below, I noticed one strange thing. See if you can figure it out before I tell you what it is.
Peterborough Collage
No, I’m not talking about my terrible perspective of how far to stand back when taking each picture. It’s something completely different. You  see there are two rocks of different heights in the playground. This year, we had a “not heated but getting close to it” conversation about which rock we used every year. I was convinced that it was one rock but the boys were convinced that it was the other. So, we took pictures in front of both rocks and, of course, when putting together the collage, I chose the picture from the rock that I was absolutely sure was the correct one. It turns out that we were both wrong! Somehow, last year we took the picture in front of the other rock than the one we did in the first year! Notice the buildings behind and how John Allen has nearly reached the top of the rock in the second picture. That’s because it was the shorter rock. No wonder we were all confused. Ah, well, so much for that. I still think that the picture is pretty neat and, God willing, we will continue with our tradition again next year.
Or could it be that the zoo staff put more mulch down last year and that’s why John Allen looks so much taller. I mean, after all, the rock does look the same. Of course there’s that mark on the rock that isn’t showing in the second picture. But Joshua’s leg could be covering it up. Look at that notch beside Jacob’s left arm. Does it seem the same to you?
OH! Never mind! Now I’m even more confused than ever! HELP!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers–A TOS Review Crew Review

  Funtastic Unit Studies Review

One of my weakest subjects to teach is science. I liked science pretty well in school, and there are certain aspects of science that I really love, but to teach it, I need a good curriculum to guide my efforts. We have used some excellent homeschool science curriculum in the past, but many of them have ginormous lists of items you need to complete the experiment and many are just plain over the heads of Joshua and Jacob my two autism spectrum kids. I need something that is easy to use, easy to teach, and easy for Joshua and Jacob to grasp.

When the chance to review Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers from Funtastic Unit Studies, I was skeptical but I looked over a couple of the free units that were offered on their website and thought that it was something that might fit our homeschool. I am so glad that I did! So far it has fit everything perfectly! First let me describe what we received and then I’ll tell you why we really like it.

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is 201 page softcover book containing 20 chapters that discuss different science topics. The chapters build upon each other and are divided into two groups – ten chapters for ages 4-7 and ten chapters for ages 8-13. The topics range from things like “The Human Body”, “Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life”, “Animals”, “Fun With Magnets” and “Stars and Planets” for the younger group to “Insects”, “Microscopes and Invisible Creatures”, “Atoms and Molecules”, “Chemistry Fun” and “Weather” for older kids among other things. Each chapter is divided into 4-7 parts and each part has three or four activities to do. Each part can easily be covered in one to two days so each chapter can easily be covered in about a two week time depending on how often you do science. There is a materials list at the beginning of each chapter and a short ten question test at the end.

Now, here’s why we really like it!

Ease of Use – Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is super easy to use. It is easy to follow and everything is included. From the material list to the test at the end of the chapter, it is all there. There is not flipping between different books, no reading a complicated teacher manual, no books for your kids to read pages and pages of information and facts that they don’t need to learn. All of the learning is done through simple experiments and projects and the explanations included.

Easy to Teach – Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is super easy to teach. The simple experiments really do use things that are found around the house or are very easy to find. Nothing that we have used so far had to be found in a specialty store or ordered. The only thing in this book that might be challenging to find is a microscope that is only used in the “Microscopes and Invisible Creatures” chapter.

The experiments themselves are also very easy. The explanations are easy to follow and teach. Since the last time we used this book was a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pull it out once again to look it over for this review. We are traveling right now but I was able to look at some of the activities and even do some of the experiments and projects in the car with the kids while Sarah was driving. It is that easy! I wouldn’t recommend doing that with all of the experiments, but that gives you an idea of how easy this curriculum is to teach.

Easy for my kids to grasp – After looking over the book when we first got it, I decided to start with chapter 11, “Insects” for ages 8-13. Jacob is 9 and Joshua is 14. I wanted to use Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers with both of them and the beginning units looked too simple for them and, although the author suggests doing them in order because they build off of one another, she also said that each chapter can be a stand alone chapter. From the very first activity in part one, my kids really got it and were learning! I was amazed at what my kids were learning by using simple objects and doing simple experiments. They learned all about Animal Classification by doing some easy pencil and paper projects. They learned about an insects exoskeleton by using a paper bag and a balloon for one experiment and a plastic egg and a wet paper towel for another. I was thrilled at what they were learning. They really did “get it”!

I could go on and on, but then this review would be too long. I think you get the picture that we are excited about Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers by Funtastic Unit Studies. In fact, we can’t wait to get back home from our ministry trip/vacation to use it more. This is a keeper. You can find out more about this great curriculum by clicking on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the TOS Review Crew think about this book, click on the banner below. Happy homeschooling!

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
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