Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Let's Go Geography {Homeschool Crew Review)

I've already talked about how this school year looks different than I originally envisioned. We're doing a lot more school on-the-go than I had originally planned for. Therefore, I was excited to find Let's Go Geography to add to our curriculum plans for the fall.

Let's Go Geography

Let's Go Geography is homeschool geography curriculum that guides elementary aged students through an exploration of a new country each week. I looked through several lessons before signing up and wrongly assumed that I could print out the materials to pack in the school binder Lauren takes with her on appointment days.

When I really dug into the curriculum, I realized that there is both a print and an online component to the program. For instance, the first unit (the Northeast United States) includes a link to a map to color and label, a link to hear the national anthem, and several links to YouTube videos. Some of the videos offer a visual tour of the area, while others explore a specific topic such as maple syrup production in Vermont. Obviously some of those activities can be printed ahead of time, but some of them need to be done where we have an internet connection (and uninterrupted time to watch videos).

I decided to regroup and plan to do geography on a day when we'd be at home. One of the next units was about Canada. Lauren wasn't particularly interested in learning about another country simply for the sake of learning about a new place. I told her about how Tim works with several members of the Canadian military, and she agreed to dig into the Let's Go Geography materials about Canada. One particularly interesting part of that study was hearing the Canadian national anthem because I told her that it would be sung along with the Star Spangled Banner at Tim's retirement ceremony this week. (Since it's a joint command with both American and Canadian troops, they do both national anthems.)


Unfortunately, Lauren's interest began to wane after doing the map, coloring the flag, and listening to O Canada on a YouTube video. Before I knew it, she had followed a link to suggested videos and was watching a preschool video of "The Duck Song." Lesson learned: make sure to hover close by when I tell Lauren to get on YouTube to do some of her schoolwork.

I then learned a second important lesson about how Lauren learns best. Most of the materials we're using this year have a very distinct start and end point. For instance, "you're finished with math for today when you answer the last problem on this page." Apparently, Lauren likes knowing exactly how much is left to do before she is done. The Let's Go Geography gave her a variety of videos to explore and then an open-ended note booking sheet. Even though the videos weren't long, she complained because she couldn't immediately see how much was left. Similarly, the lack of structure on the note booking page left her asking me "how much do I have to write." I don't think she was trying to get away with doing as little work as possible, she just didn't quite know what to do.


As a parent and teacher, I really appreciate the wealth of information Let's Go Geography provides for each country. Unfortunately, all this information would be better suited for a child that wanted to explore a new country instead of simply finishing the assignment.

Let's Go Geography is set-up for students to study a new country each week. Younger students may want to follow the suggestions for dividing the study amongst five days. Lauren spent both an hour on one day doing the study activities for each country (and opted not to do the art projects). After studying ten new countries, one week is spent on review activities such as labeling a blank map, matching flags with their countries, identifying pictures, etc. Although the program is set-up to go in a specific order, a one-year membership gave us access to all the countries so that we could skip around if we wished.


Even though I cannot use Let's Go Geography for our on-the-go days, I still intend to add it to Lauren's schoolwork when we are at home. One of the American Heritage Girls badges (World Heritage) asks her to study three countries, and these materials will make it easy for her to finish that requirement. She's already finished Canada, maybe we'll do Belize this week.

Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}

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©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Friday, September 15, 2017

Random Five on Friday

1. I've been working on Octopus for Preemie octopuses whenever I can squeeze in a few moments for crochet. These five friends are on their way to a NICU in New Jersey this weekend.



2. Brennan came home from work a few days ago talking about the new yoga mats they have at the pool. I cannot imagine how difficult this ab workout would be.



3. I think we've spent more time doing schoolwork in the car than at home these past two weeks. One of Lauren's favorite car schooling activities is listening to the audio version of her Sassafras Science book.



4. Lauren has been working on a new stop-motion video with her American Girl dolls lately. I stole these pictures of one of the girls doing gymnastics.



5. The big news of the week is that today was Tim's last official day of work. His retirement ceremony is next Tuesday and then he'll be on leave (and job hunting) until the end of this year.



©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 3, 2017

First Day Photos

September 1st turned out to be a fun vacation-like day here. Tim had the day off of work, and Lauren argued that she should have the day off of school. We reached a compromise that meant she did some schoolwork before we left home that morning and more work while we were traveling that afternoon.

Our first stop of the day was the radio station. Children's Hospital is having a radiothon in October, and we recorded some of Lauren's story to be shared that day.



Tim, Lauren, and I then headed out of town for a quick weekend trip. We stayed at FE Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It's such a beautiful historic base -- wish I had gotten more pictures of some of the buildings there. We saw very few modern buildings, most date back to the early 1900s when it was an Army Post.


Reading time while I fixed dinner:


Berry got put in a very-convenient jail in our TLF.


Meanwhile, Brennan sent me this picture from his afternoon's adventure climbing with a friend.


After dinner, we set off in search of some dessert and then wandered around the base. (We had hoped for non-dairy ice cream at the Commissary but settled for lime popsicles which we took out to the lake to enjoy.)




One of the coolest things about F. E. Warren is the wildlife roaming around the base. This is just one of many groups of pronghorn we saw. We also saw an enormous jack rabbit that bounded away before I could get a picture.


We squeezed in a few games before bedtime and then I tried to get ahead a bit in the physics class I might need to help Brennan with.



It turned out to be quite a fun day, even if Lauren complained about school work. We spent the next day touring a few National Park sites and then headed home. Short trip, but good to get away for a bit.


©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Journey Through Learning Lapbook {Homeschool Crew Review}

A Journey Through Learning

I posted a few days ago about how our school year didn't start as I had planned. It's a good thing that my curriculum plans are flexible. I had some tentative plans that aren't going to work right now, but thankfully I also have a new review product that filled in the gaps quite nicely.

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks has lapbook materials suitable for all sorts of homeschool needs. Families involved in Classical Conversations can find lapbooks to correspond with that work, and families using Apologia science books will find lapbooks to correspond with those textbooks. My favorite products are the Stand-Alone Topical Lapbooks. While there are lots of good options, Lauren has been doing their The Greatest Inventors study to start this school year.

Greatest Inventors Lapbook with Study Guide

When I opened the digital file from A Journey Through Learning, I was immediately relieved to see that it wasn't as complicated as some lapbooks we've done. The lapbook base can be any solid color file folders. We used plain manilla folders, but I'm sure it would be prettier in a color. In fact, it might be cool to coordinate the file folders to represent a particular subject (green for science, blue for literature, etc).

The materials can all be printed on plain white paper. I printed half of the pages on regular printer paper because they contained information for Lauren to read, and I printed all the lapbook components on cardstock to better stand up over time. (It might've been nice to have the information first to print on plain paper and the lapbook pieces separate to print after loading cardstock, but it wasn't a big deal to divide the printing.) The lapbook components have some use of color in the illustrations to make the finished lapbook visually appealing, and thankfully it wasn't so much color that I worried about my printer running out of ink. The booklets go together easily, and I won't have to track down brads or other often-misplaced supplies to put it all together. Basically, we just need file folders, paper, glue, and a stapler to do the whole project.



The best part about this lapbook is that all the information is included. The Greatest Inventors lapbook covers 19 different inventors -- Johannes Gutenberg, Benjamin Franklin, the Wright brothers, George Washington Carver, Alexander Graham Bell, and others. It is organized so that the student can read a short biography of an inventor. Most of these passages are less than a page long, and they appear to be written at a fifth or sixth grade reading level.


After reading the inventor's biography, Lauren completes the lapbook activities which typically ask her to remember (or look back to find) specific facts about the inventor. She can then cut out the lapbook component and glue it into the lapbook. One great feature about this lapbook is that the directions show her where the completed projects will go in the folders. She can glue them into place right away instead of having to wait until the end of our unit study.


With all of the information bound to take it with us and all the pieces able to be glued in place as soon as they are completed, The Greatest Inventors Learning Lapbook with Study Guide is the perfect way for me to squeeze in a bit of science and history on the days when Lauren spends more time doing schoolwork in the car than she does at home.



A Journey Through Learning offers lap books to fit all sorts of homeschooling needs. For us, the Stand-Alone Topical lapbooks are proving their worth as a way to extend learning on not-so-perfect homeschool days. Thank goodness they have plenty of other options for me to choose from when she finishes learning about The Greatest Inventors. My biggest challenge might be deciding whether I should get a history-themed product like Overview of the 20th Century or a science-themed one like Inside My Body. There's also Women Inventors, which would follow nicely with the one Lauren is doing now.

Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}

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©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 27, 2017

First Day of School

I'm running a bit behind for this year's first day of school pictures. Actually, the first day of school was a bit behind too.

We had a field trip planned for Tuesday, August 15th, and I was going to count that as our official first day back at school for this year. Wednesday the 16th would've been our first regular day of school at home.

Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. . .

On Monday, August 14th, Lauren and I stopped by the library for a meeting about her new science classes and then headed to Denver for a routine psychiatry appointment. When she checked in, the blood pressure machine alarmed for a very high heart rate. We left that appointment and went directly to cardiology -- "do not pass go, do not collect $200."

Lauren spent Monday night in the hospital for observation. On Tuesday, instead of touring the power plant on our field trip, she took a trip to the cath lab.

She was thrilled that she was allowed to sign an assent form to be part of a research study -- normally I'm the one signing all the papers prior to a cath.


It's not exactly the first day of school picture I planned to take.

After the cath, the cardiology team decided she should stay one more night while we waited to hear the results of the biopsies. She started treatment for transplant rejection later that night.


Wednesday brought lots of excitement and an emergency transfer to the CICU when Lauren's heart rate went up again. In true Lauren fashion, her biggest concern was that someone moved her lunch tray out of reach before she got to have her bacon.


The rest of the week brought a shiny new picc line and lots of IV infusions. Thankfully, it also brought a little bit of reading, a few board games, some silly times with friends, an art project or two, and a whole bunch of YouTube videos on the iPad.






A week after she was admitted, Lauren's cardiologist insisted that we figure out a way for her to see the eclipse. Since she's on contact precautions while inpatient, she's not normally allowed to leave her room.

I had to drag her outside, and then we spent about an hour and a half outside watching the eclipse (only about 92% eclipsed in Denver). Ironically, she enjoyed it so much that I had to drag her back inside.




Lauren was discharged Wednesday afternoon, and we counted Thursday as her official first day of school. I suspect it won't be our first day of school spent car-schooling and appointment-schooling instead of homeschooling.





Even though I took plenty of pictures while Lauren was in the hospital not going to school, I didn't get any of Brennan who was busy at home balancing school work with lifeguarding or Addison who was traveling with friends to see the total eclipse. I guess I'll get one of Brennan sooner or later and then pretend it was a back-to-school picture. I'll have to beg Addison to send me one of her too.

©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No Nonesense Algebra for Accelerated Math Students {Homeschool Crew Review}

When looking at Brennan's math books for this coming school year, it looks like I either have more high school students in my house than everybody thought or that I've completely lost my mind. He will be using No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials in conjunction with the Calculus books for his regular math curriculum.

No-Nonsense Algebra

I know it doesn't look like it would make any sense at all. Recently, I figured out that standardized college entrance exams can be a challenge for accelerated math students. Addison finished Calculus I as a high school sophomore and moved on to Calculus B/C during her junior year. Brennan will be taking Calculus I during his junior year. I specifically looked at their junior years because that's the year that taking the PSAT counts for the National Merit Scholarship Competition (and a National Merit Scholarship can pay for a lot of college expenses). The issue is that the PSAT/SAT/ACT exams are based on a traditional math sequence where many students do not take math classes past Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus. The vast majority of the math covered on the college entrance exams is based on pre-algebra calculation skills, some basic algebra manipulation, and a bit of geometry knowledge. One website claims that only 4 out of 50 math questions on the SAT requires basic trigonometry. My advanced math students were so far removed from elementary algebra concepts that they struggled more than if they had taken these exams a few years earlier.

That's where No-Nonsense Algebra steps in. This fall, Brennan will be using No-Nonsense Algebra to refresh his memory on math terminology, basic computation skills, and algebra so that those concepts won't look so foreign to him when he encounters them on the PSAT in October.

The first chapter of No-Nonsense Algebra covers a lot of pre-algebra topics, including basic computation skills that many advanced math students may have forgotten. (Both of the engineers in our house rely heavily on their calculators and would grumble if they were forced to do calculations with only a paper/pencil the way it is tested on certain sections of college entrance exams.)


What I love about Math Essentials is that the concepts are broken down into simple, easily-understood explanations. For nearly all of the topics, the explanation takes about half a page, an example problem takes another half a page, and then there is a single page of practice problems (and never more than 20 problems to work).


Because these concepts are all review for Brennan, he generally only needs the short explanation in the book. The No-Nonsense Algebra book includes an access code that unlocks short instructional videos for each topic as well. Each of these videos is approximately 8-10 minute long. Short enough to keep a busy student's attention span, but long enough to fully explain the concept.

I remember quite a bit of algebra concepts when it comes to solving basic calculation problems, so I turned to the last section of the book -- word problems. It contained several topics that I remember being particularly challenging.


I started with "Time, Rate, and Distance Problems" because I remember the challenges of train and car problems. I like the way Math Essentials broke these sorts of word problems down into four distinct types.


After reading the explanation and examples, I tried one on my own.


I then moved on to the "Mixture Problems." This time I skipped over the book introductions and examples and just watched the video. He gave a very clear explanation of how to solve the problem, and I felt confident enough to tackle the four exercise problems for this section.

Now that I've mastered (once again) the quadratic equations, train problems, and mixture problems, I'm ready to face the world, including the advanced physics class I'm going to be teaching this fall. More importantly, I'm confident that the lessons in No-Nonsense Algebra will help Brennan be prepared to ace the "easy" algebra questions on the PSAT.

After working with the No-Nonsense Algebra for a while, I looked to see what other topics Math Essentials covers. I was happy to see that they offer books on elementary math concepts, specific topics such as fractions or decimals/percents, geometry, problem solving, and mastering essential math skills (pre-algebra concepts). I was particularly interested in their Problem Solving book and just ordered it for Lauren. It starts with simple one-step word problems and moves into increasingly more complex problems, including those that will require two or even three steps to reach the answer.

No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}

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©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

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