Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Which Tree is Yours? ~ Outdoor Hour Challenge

October's Outdoor Hour Challenges from Handbook of Nature Study centered around Trees. The kids and I had started identifying trees at our local park this summer, so we transitioned into these lessons quite nicely. We didn't get all of the challenges done, per se, but made connections none-the-less.

Our fun primarily included going to the park and each choosing a tree to follow all year.

Brynne chose the Maple.

Eli chose the Sweetgum.

And I chose the mighty Oak. I had the kids run around the park and find the tree with the acorns. It took some time, but they found one. We observed the acorns and the oak leaves. Several times through the month I would hold up a leaf at the park to see if they could identify it, trying to focus on the oak, maple, and sweetgum. We are trying to get to know our three trees more intimately, and can't wait to see what they look like covered in snow.

We did bark and leaf rubbings of "our trees", and pressed leaves.

We also spent some of our outdoor park time this month doing a Fall Scavenger Hunt provided by Marcy at Ben and Me. So far we have found everything except a feather and helicopter seeds. We were particularly attracted to all of the moss we found, especially the moss on and at the base of one of the trees in the park. The moss was like a bright green carpet and was so pretty and soft.

Of course I also love the other nature learning that happened spontaneously while focusing on trees, like seeing Brynne chase a "yellow and black butterfly", coming across a walking stick, and finding a limb with some fungus on it and wondering, "what is that?" I have seen my kids being more in tune to what is around them, and it's great!!

Looking forward to nature studies in November! Join us! Head over to Handbook of Nature Study and sign up for email notifications. You will then automatically receive the monthly Outdoor Hour Challenge newsletter with all of the fun activities.

Halloween Unit

Am the only one who has had Halloween sneak up on her? I mean, I have the costumes mostly done, and I have the candy bought, but somehow I forgot to plan a fun Halloween school unit! So I spent some time this weekend working on a unit for us to do today, because tomorrow we are going to go on a mini-field trip to a pumpkin patch.

The three essentials of a unit study for me are literature (reading), writing, and math. Then I try to throw in a craft activity and possibly a food. Here is what we have planned for our unit:


 Halloween Pie by Michael Tunnell

Jack-o-Lanterns by Lola Schaefer

The Magic Pumpkin by Bill Martin

Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet by Diane De Groat


We will read Riddles that Rhyme for Halloween Time by Leonard Kessler and then choose a riddle for copywork and an illustration.


We will do some Halloween Magic Squares with double-digit addition.

Crafts and Activities.

History and puzzles from SchoolExpress Halloween unit study.

Pumpkin banner

Fizzle Pumpkin Painting


Since we have hot dogs at church tomorrow night, we are going to fix our Halloween dinner tonight. We are planning to fix turkey burgers with jack-o-lantern cheese slices and "bloody fingers", aka french fries with ketchup.

Tomorrow we are going to a small pumpkin patch. We already have all of our pumpkins and decorations, but we HAVE to go to the pumpkin patch, right??

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Week Ahead

I love how Lora at My Blessed Life always does a weekly preview post. So, I thought I would give it a shot this week, especially since we will be kind of all over the place. This might help me stay on track. Here are the plans ...

  • Babysitting my 3 month old niece, Ashtyn, in the morning and then again in the afternoon
  • Having a "regular" day of school, in between babysitting, with our unit study being Indonesia
  • Cub scouts
  • Chicken tetrazzini for dinner
  • Halloween unit study full of literature, writing, math, crafts, and cooking
  • Handbell choir practice
  • Spooky burgers and bloody finger fries for dinner
  • More Halloween fun with a trip to the pumpkin patch
  • Trick-or-treating on Main Street and at the nursing home
  • Hot dogs at church for dinner
  • Another "regular" day of school, with more Indonesia studies
  • Calzones for dinner
  • Run "to town" for groceries in the evening
  • Start an Election unit study that we will finish on Tuesday
  • Daddy's here!
  • Potato soup for dinner
  • Daddy's still here, so hanging out with him
  • Lesson planning for the next week
  • Food prep for meals taking to Oklahoma for Monday and Tuesday (we are going for a three day visit so I am cooking meals to take since Rick has limited supplies at our empty house there.) 
  • Clean house
  • Goulash for dinner
  • American stew into the crockpot for lunch after church
  • Church
  • Travel to Oklahoma

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Samson's Classroom ~ Schoolhouse Review

"This is really fun!" ~ Brynne, age 7

"I wish I could do the karate game for spelling today." ~ Eli, age 8


These were some of our endorsements for Samson's Classroom, a fun online educational program that reinforces sight word recognition, spelling, and reading comprehension for grades K-5. We have been reviewing this product for the Schoolhouse Review Crew for the past month or so. There were parts that we LOVED and parts that we didn't care for as much.


Here's a breakdown:

Sight Words. My kids, ages 7 and 8 are already avid readers, so the Sight Words games were not beneficial to them. I did have them play each of the games, however, and they said that they were really fun. If they were emerging readers, I can see that this part of the program would have been extremely beneficial to them.


Spelling. We use a spelling program in our regular studies that does not have my children learning designated spelling lists from which they take traditional spelling tests. So for our review period we put aside our regular spelling program to utilize Samson's Classroom. We chose spelling lists, already provided in the system with grade-level grouping, played the games through the week, and then took a written spelling test on those words at the end of the week.

Eli playing "Missing Letters".

We had mixed reviews on the spelling games.
  • The kids loved the karate chopping spelling game of "Missing Letters". In fact, they played it every day of the week. I am certain that this game helped them in getting perfect scores on their written spelling tests.
  • "Spelling Scramble" just did not make sense to us. The kids had trouble manipulating Samson and getting him to run in the direction they needed him to run. And, they were concentrating so hard on that, and the imminent defeat of Samson, that they got no spelling benefits from the game. 
  • And "Crunch Time" required that the kids know how to type fast enough to type the spelling word before the time ran out. They just couldn't do it and were, again, frustrated.
Reading. Okay, now this is what we REALLY loved! This part of the program allows you to chose from four levels. There are a bunch of short stories to read, and then comprehension questions to answer. We started on Level 1 and completed two stories per day, per child. They have had so much fun with this, and I plan to have them continue doing two stories per day until we get all the way through Level 4. Believe me, I get no complaints when it's time to get started.


Set up for Samson's Classroom was a breeze. I was able to set up accounts for each child so that I could track their progress. I do have to log each of them in separately, and it would be nice if I could just click on each child on a menu when I log into my account. It seems that eliminating the steps of "Log Out" of one child and "Log In" of another would be helpful.

The Resource Center has lots of additional materials available, including worksheets, lesson plans, printable awards, and more.

The cost for Samson's Classroom is $30 per year for an individual membership and $50 per year for a family, with up to 4 users, and can be purchased by going to the Samson's Classroom website. It is available for both Mac and PC users.

I am not sure this is a program I would purchase for our family as it just does not fit with our individual schooling needs. Perhaps if you could purchase each of the sections a la carte, I might feel differently. However, I can see where it would be very beneficial and fun to a family with new readers. You can utilize some Free Demos to see if it would be a good fit for you.

To see what others though of this product, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew website.


{Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.}

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Geography

Ever since we downloaded Stack the States onto our iPad, my kids have been hooked on geography! Once they had exhausted that game, they wanted to move on to Stack the Countries. It was hard! But it didn't take them any time before they had mastered many aspects of it. And now they have an amazing ability to identify locations of countries, their flags, monuments, native languages and more. They blow me out of the water. They even want to decorate their bedroom in a geography theme with flags, maps, etc., and I have found the coolest world map rug that would start off the theme perfectly! Christmas gift???

Yesterday, we were reading the book Monkey Colors by Darrin Lunde, which includes a world map on the back page showing where the monkeys live. My kids, seriously, were able to identify which country those monkeys lived in, just by looking at the blank map. I was astounded! (And they proved it to me by bringing up the maps on Stack the Countries.)

Their love of geography made me decide we needed to be constantly doing a geographical study of some kind. Last week we learned about Nigeria and Senegal in Africa. This week (and over the next two weeks), because of a product we are reviewing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we are learning about Indonesia. They are loving it and our weeks are flying by with fun!

Now onto what we did this week ...

On Monday we were traveling back from Oklahoma, so it was mostly an iPad learning day. We decided to ease into Tuesday, after a busy weekend, so had a fun activity day surrounding the book Little Hoot as part of the Virtual Book Club for Kids we have joined.

Wednesday was a full school day. We started learning about Isaac in our Bible lessons, did a lesson in All About Spelling, started our new read-aloud Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck, did some reading comprehension on Samson's Classroom (review posting tomorrow), completed a math lesson from Math Enhancement Programme, did some personal reading, and began the pre-writing exercises for our new WriteShop unit on punctuation with a theme of colors.

MEP had us estimating lengths and then measuring to prove or disprove our estimation.

Then the Indonesia fun began! We watched a great video on a particular village's houses, did a Venn diagram comparing their houses to ours, and then made our own Wano house out of materials found in our yard.

Thursday was a similar day. We continued with our study of Isaac, did verb and adjective identification from the book 10 Hungry Rabbits by Anita Lobel, continued with our pre-writing exercises in WriteShop (which incorporated the two books already mentioned: Monkey Colors and 10 Hungry Rabbits), completed another lesson in All About Spelling, did more personal reading, and read more out of Secrets at Sea.

Our Indonesia study had us doing some math! We made a general list of all food we would need to buy for us to eat for a week, then calculated that by two weeks, then calculated it by six months! We watched another great video and then cooked our Indonesian-inspired meal of Satay chicken and peanut sauce. Spicy but YUM!

Eli and Brynne also colored maps of Indonesia and listened to the native language in Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia. Both of these activities were at their request.

The most important thing we learned on Thursday, however, was that a new member of our family was born! My brother, Tim, and his wife, Shawna, who live in Portland, Oregon, had their first baby on Thursday morning, a sweet baby girl named Bell Nora.

Today it's Friday. Dawson didn't have school today because of parent-teacher conferences. I went to pick up his 1st quarter report card yesterday and he has all A's, except for one B. I am VERY proud of him!! He slept in today and hung out with girlfriend watching a movie ... well deserved! I let the rest of us sleep in, too.

After lunch we went to the park for some play time and nature study. We did some bark rubbings of our "trees of the year", collected some leaves and did leaf rubbings for those same trees, finished our acorn and oak study, and worked more on our Fall Scavenger Hunt.

It was a crisp and cold day, but perfect for a day at the park. The kids played, Crusoe ran, and I walked around the perimeter of the park.

We are looking for another fun week studying about Indonesia, and moving along in our regular studies. We are in a groove now, and I don't want to lose any momentum. Everybody's happy ... Hurray!!

Linking up with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Little Hoot ~ Amy Krouse Rosenthal {Virtual Book Club for Kids}

I have decided to start participating in the Virtual Book Club for Kids blog hop with Toddler Approved and a host of others. This month we were to read to our children a book written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. We chose Little Hoot.

Poor Little Hoot. He loves everything, except bedtime! Why? Because his parents make him stay up late, like all the other owls, and he wants to go to bed like all his friends do! One particular night his mom makes him stay up another hour before he can go to bed, so he comes up with a whole bunch of activities to keep him busy.

After reading the book, we did the majority of Little Hoot's activities.

We played swords.

We jumped on the bed.

We went to the park and played on the jungle gym.

We made a fort and played in it, and did some reading with flashlights.

We were going to rake up a pile of leaves and jump in them, but they were soggy wet from the previous night's rain. We did scooter to grandma's for lunch, like we do every Tuesday.

After we got home from lunch we made pine cone owls.

This book came at a good time because we had just gotten back from a long weekend in Oklahoma and really needed a fun, activity-filled day.

Throughout the week, we also read a couple more of Rosenthal's books: Yes Day! and Duck! Rabbit! Brynne loved Duck! Rabbit! and has read it several times this week.

It's not too late to join in on the fun. (In fact, this is my first month.) Next month's author is Tomie de Paola. Grab one of his books, read it, do some activities, and link back with us on the third Monday of next month.

I am also linking up to Read-Aloud Thursday with Amy at Hope is the Word.