Friday, February 27, 2015

Book of the Moment: Moby Dick (Junior Classics)

I have never, ever, ever wanted to read Moby Dick.  Not in the slightest.  A friend, however, lent us a kids' adaptation of it.  Kids' adaptations are also something I generally avoid (why give away the plot before they can truly enjoy the book? it seems cruel!), but it seemed like a good idea with this tome. 

And it was!  It was a really fun book.  The reading level was low enough that each of my boys could have read it independently, although we read it aloud because one had to be convinced.  :)  Then he ended up really enjoying it, though, and begged me to read more chapters.  I am also reading a book called Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light at the moment, which has been fascinating, and because gas lamps in the 1800s were lit with whale oil, I was reading about whaling ships, spermaceti, right whales, and other such stuff in two places at once.  Very interesting.

Even in the kids' adaptation, it's obvious that the real story is very dark and also very philosophical.  It has lots of imagery and foreshadowing, and when it's later time to teach my kids about those devices and I want easy examples, I may borrow this book from my friend again.  It is also melodramatic, in true Romantic-period style (think Les Mis, Little Women, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Wuthering Heights, etc.).  And it was a bit gory at times.  

But fun!  They were fans!  Even our little girl was drawing pictures of Moby Dick.  :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Awesome chemistry resources

I have posted before about some of the chemistry resources our kids have loved.  (And I mean LOVED!  Our kids have been super-into chemistry at different periods around here.)  Since the chemistry portion of CC is rolling around again, I'll post about several chemistry resources here.

First are some awesome apps:

  • Theodore Gray's Elements apps (HERE and HERE and HERE).  Super cool.  They used to be free, but now they are pricey.  As much as my kids have used them, though, the price would have actually been worth it for us.  Theodore Gray also has books and a puzzle with the same content, and they're cool, but it's even better on the iPad. If you don't want to cough up the money for the apps, though, there are websites that have about half of the same information, which is also pretty awesome!

  • Oresome Elements app.  A great game for learning where elements belong on the periodic table.  Fun.     

Okay, those are our favorite chemistry apps.  Additionally, we've also had a periodic table placemat for a few years, which is helpful.  

And on to books:  

  •  What's Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?  This compares sizes of things, like amoebas, bacteria, molecules, etc.  It's not chemistry, exactly, but introduces chemistry by framing for our kids the microscopic things that make up everything.  This book is aimed at little kids, but it would probably be helpful to older kids as well. 

  • Periodic Table: Elements with Style! by Basher Books.  At first I thought the characters in this book were ninjas, but they're not, just some kind of crazy characters that my boys think are cool.  This is kind of an encyclopedia of elements.

  • The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker.  I wrote about this book before HERE.  This book is AWESOME.

I'd love to hear about other great resources you know about!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Books of the Moment: Harriet Tubman and Phyllis Wheatley

This year is our American history cycle, and I decided to read the boys a biography about Harriet Tubman that I found in the library at my parents' church.  Here it is:

Courage to Run:  A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman by Wendy Lawton

I expected the boys to drag their feet the whole way through it.  It is not action-packed; the vocabulary and dialects are hard; it is about a heavy topic.  We were also reading Treasure Island during the same time period, and I wondered how this book would fare against pirates and gold doubloons.

I shouldn't have worried--they preferred this one!

(Granted, the vocabulary and style of Treasure Island are even more difficult, and it took them a while to warm up to it, although they certainly have!)

Harriet Tubman was a pretty remarkable lady.  This book is only about her childhood, but that is worth reading about as well, and it's made the boys interested in reading other (shorter) books we have about the rest of Harriet Tubman's life.  It also, of course, made them more familiar with some of the evils of slavery, as I'd hoped it would.  I will want our daughter to read this in a few years so that she can see how strong and courageous a young girl can be, especially when her hope is in the promises of Christ.  

Anyway, it was a surprise winner around here.  I also recently read another book in the same series about Phyllis Wheatley, and maybe I need to read that one to the boys soon, too!    



Friday, November 28, 2014

Book of the Moment: a Wilberforce biography

My son and I just finished The Freedom Fighter, a kids' biography of William Wilberforce by Derick Bingham (we read it separately but around the same time).  It was good and I heartily recommend it to other families.

If you're not familiar with Wilberforce, he was a British Member of Parliament in the early 1800s who fought for decades for the abolition of the slave trade and then of slavery.  He was awesome.  God used him mightily.  I've read a couple of adult biographies of Wilberforce in years past (one written to people with more familiarity of the details of British history than I have, and then one written for the rest of us called Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas).  We also own the movie of Amazing Grace.

This biography was written for kids, so it certainly lost a sense of what a fight it was to convince the British Empire to abandon (and then pay to abandon) something that was so lucrative for it and that, honestly, very people even gave a second thought about.  Because this book is simplified, and because kids don't know what kind of machines governments, industries, and ingrained ideas can be, they won't catch HOW improbable Wilberforce's victory was.  But they'll get a glimpse of it!  And they'll get a glimpse of both how God equips and positions people for certain tasks and then simultaneously requires them to struggle to accomplish those tasks.  

Good book!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rosetta Stone flashcards/Quizlet

Hi!  Our oldest son has been doing Rosetta Stone Spanish for a couple of years now, and our younger son began about a month ago.  There's a lot I like about the program, but it's definitely not perfect.  

For instance, yesterday our son was supposed to be working with the phrases "duerme" and "no duerme."  I asked him what they meant, and he said, "He's sick, or he's not sick."  The word actually means "sleep," but I could see why he thought that--you couldn't tell from the picture.  It could have been either.  And Rosetta Stone will never correct you.

So I looked online a bit.  Turns out there's a website called Quizlet that has lots of different flashcard options.  (Billions of) other people have already entered the vocabulary from Rosetta Stone Spanish into Quizlet, so you can pick the levels you're working on and boom! you've got vocabulary games, tests, flashcards, etc., for the vocabulary you need!  Sometimes people have grouped them into really large groups of vocabulary, which isn't perfect, buy hey, at least they did it!

My kids have just begun using this as a supplement to Rosetta Stone.  Yay!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fat Brain Toys

The Christmas-gift-buying season is upon us, and I thought I'd point out Fat Brain Toys.  It's just an online toy store with toys that can found be found elsewhere, but it's a great place to look when you're running low on ideas (other than the endless stream of Pixar movies that my kids always want...).  

Some of our very favorite things, such as Perplexus, the Scrambled States of America Game, Inchimals, and the Squishy Human Body are available.  And I'm sure the kids would love many of the other million things listed.

I am all for those "30 Non-Toy Gift Ideas" lists on Pinterest--it is very often preferable to give tickets to a play or for lessons--but when you're looking for toy ideas, this is a great place!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Landmarks! And printable landmark flashcards!

Lately my kids and I have been flipping through some landmark flashcards that I bought at Target a few years ago for a buck.  They look like this:

That's wonderful, but I wanted more!  The Great Wall of China isn't even on there.  ???!?

I looked around to find other good options for learning landmarks.  Obviously we could begin to travel more.  :)  And we could buy every calendar known to man.

There are cool kits like Lego Architecture and Ravensburger 3-D puzzles

There are regular puzzles like THIS, and online puzzles on our beloved Sheppard Software, little figurines as seen HERE, and there are other sites to help you learn landmarks.

Lakeshore Learning offers (interesting but expensive) flashcards, but it doesn't cover many landmarks.   

Really, I just wanted flashcards, lots and lots of flashcards.

So I made them.  And if I'm going to spend that much time making them, I might as well share them.  

**But get this--I could not for the life of me figure out how to attach the file to Blogger, either in Word or as a PDF--without messing up the formatting.  So if you want them, let me know and I will e-mail them to you.**  

They are NOT perfectly centered.  Not even close.  I like things straight and nice, but the extra finagling I would have had to do to get things formatted perfectly was simply too much.  

But all you have to do is print these sheets on cardstock (two-sided) and them cut them into quarters with a paper cutter.  

(If you happen to own the Target landmark cards pictured above, you don't need to print pages 43-60.)

If anyone finds an error within these cards, please let me know!

And now my kids have a lot more locations to look up on Google Earth!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scripture Typer

A friend recently told me about Scripture Typer, and I'm glad she did!

The idea is that you pick verses or passages that you'll type out, gradually working towards memorization (the site begins dropping words and you have to supply them yourself), and it keeps up with the verses you learn and when you need to review them.

I should probably be doing it myself, but so far I've just had my boys do it.  They don't do it super frequently--just once or twice a week--so I know we're not receiving the full benefit of memorization, but it's a start!

In addition to the most important thing (hiding God's word in their hearts), they're also working on typing (which they had originally learned through BBC's Dance Mat typing), spelling, punctuation, etc.  In other words, it's addressing a lot of the very things we need to be working on now. You can adjust your preferences for punctuation, and you can also edit the verse (if you don't want things like "Selah" included, for instance).  And of course you can pick which translation you use.

There are two options for how it "grades" your typing of the Scripture: speed or accuracy.  I 100% think accuracy is the better option for my kids, and it's working well.

One of my kids likes Scripture Typer, one doesn't...oh, well.  It's good for them.

I did have to create e-mail addresses for each of my kids so that they could each have their own account.  That's okay--we won't use the e-mail addresses for anything else.  

That's it!  


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Slugs & Bugs!

Two of our favorite albums have long been:

Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies


Slugs & Bugs: Under Where?

The first one got us most of the way to D.C. and back a couple of years ago.  Helpful!  

The albums are great.  The two men who made them are both Christians and some of the songs are about God, and then lots of the songs are just about goofy things--pirates, or hippos, or a song where one of them tricks the other into saying "underwear" over and over.  

They are very imaginative.  One of the songwriters/singers is also the author of The Wingfeather Saga, which I haven't read but I've heard from many places is wonderful.  The guy is a word-smith.  And that makes for fun listening with these kids' albums.

And several months back, we got the new album:

Which is awesome.  And we keep listening to it.  And you might like it too!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Books of the Moment: Sam the Minuteman, Paul Revere's Ride, and Jean Fritz books

We are in the thick of American history here at our house, or at least as in-the-thick-of-it as you can be when your school kids are only eight and six.  Our six-year-old gave a presentation about George Washington this week at our Classical Conversations community, and he told me four out of the six kids in his class presented about George Washington.  :)  

We've been reading from Story of the World, and we've picked up other books, too.  There are obviously billions of good books about American history, but I'll mention a few we've really liked.

Sam the Minuteman--Written by Nathaniel Benchley and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, the same man who wrote and illustrated the Frog and Toad series.  Like Frog and Toad, it is written on a lower level and has frequent pictures.  It's about an older boy who is caught up in the Battle of Lexington and Concord.  Pretty perfect for the first-grade crowd or so (it is about a battle, though, so of course is it not light like Frog and Toad).

Paul Revere's Ride--The poem written by Longfellow and illustrated by Ted Rand--My boys are memorizing part of the famous poem and will have to recite it as one of the presentations this year at CC.

Jean Fritz books, such as Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? and others--I will not act like my children love these books.  They are fairly long and are aimed at the nine and up crowd, I suspect.  However, for what they are--text-heavy history books with lots and lots of information (as opposed to comic-book style history books that are also available)--I think they're pretty fantastically done.  Fritz writes engagingly.  She makes things funny.  And she handles the history well.  We haven't read all of her many books, but they will be on our library list for years to come.