Thursday, June 27, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page - Review of "Light and the Eye" and "The Hobbit" Units

For the past few weeks, Arlene and I have been reviewing two individual units from Moving Beyond the Page (MBTP). The two units we received for review were both from their 'Ages 11-13 level.' (Basically 6th-8th grades.) The Science unit is titled "Light and the Eye." The Literature unit is "The Hobbit."

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Moving Beyond the Page's tagline reads "How your children want to learn." I was curious as to how these Unit studies would fare in our household. I know Arlene has read The Hobbit more than once, but would she enjoy digging deeper? The answer ... yes! Would she enjoy learning about light & eyes...sometimes. Keep reading to find out more details!

We were given access to The Hobbit as an online unit ($12.93). We received a printed copy of the book in the mail ($8.99). Before Arlene began, I logged into MBTP's website, printed off the pages she would need, and looked through the unit. I wanted to know what to expect her to be working on each day. Each unit is designed to be completed in 19 days. The online units have an availability of 3 months. That means, once you start them, you have access for 90 days. You don't have to access them when you buy them, so, if you've set aside your budgeted money for next fall, you can purchase them now, and just wait until you're ready to use them. (If a life emergency happens, contact Customer Service for an extension!) 

MBTP has a whole year's worth of curriculum at each age level. The whole-year package covers Literature, Science, and Social Studies. I was curious to see how well the units stand alone. The Full-Year package is cost-prohibitive for most families we know, so I wanted to see if the individual units were a good value. 

Back to The Hobbit. I showed Arlene how to login to our account, so she could read the "Intro, Activities, and Conclusion" parts for each lesson. Since I was working mornings outside of the home while she was doing this unit, I needed to see if it was too difficult for her to understand on her own. My husband can help her with a lot of things, but not Grammar. Would she understand what was being taught and be able to answer the questions and do the written exercises? Arlene did fairly well with doing this unit on her own. She read each section in the book (usually a chapter) then filled out her 'Reading and Questions' sheet and did her activities. Most afternoons I would get a verbal short report about what she did that day. 

Since we had 3-hole punched her sheets and put them in a binder, it was fairly easy to tell if she had completed her assignments. With the online version of the curriculum, there is an option for the student to type their answers to the Reading and Questions into the form online instead of hand-writing them. Since we were having some pesky computer issues, I had her handwrite all the answers. If you live overseas, I can see how the online version would be helpful (saving on shipping/ customs fees) but we prefer the printed guides. Part of this is because the girls use my computer, so their available time online each day is  limited. Keep this in mind if you're considering having more than one student at a time doing units with online guides.

Arlene actually ended up drawing pictures for almost every chapter, to help her remember what she had read...and because she loves to draw. She also made some cool mythical creatures. (The fairy's arm fell off during baking, we'll have to get out the super glue!)

If you already owned a copy of The Hobbit , or could borrow it from the Library, you could purchase the printed guide for only $16.99. I think that is a reasonable cost for teaching your student not only about the storyline, but about the author, run-on sentences, independent clauses and so much more. Besides the things I've already talked about, we both enjoyed the printed page with "Anglo-Saxon Runes" and the "Handy Guide to Writing and Grammar."

The Science unit we received, "Light and the Eye" ($23.94) was a bit more challenging. Some of the experiments were difficult for Arlene to do by herself. All but one of them we figured out how to do together. There is an option of purchasing the science kit for each semester that might have made some of the experiment easier to complete. However, truthfully, I think some of them just need more detailed instructions, and/or better illustrations since most of the materials used can be found around your house. 

The only one we could not get to work at all was the 'camera obscura' one. Thankfully, Arlene's older sister has used one at her position at our local living history museum, so she explained to us how it was supposed to work.

We liked how this unit came with a printed spiral-bound guide, so Arlene could easily take it all over the house with her while she read from the "Light and Color" book, or conducted her experiments. 

I think the favorite activity of both of us was when Arlene made her own kaleidoscope. The "Light and Color" book is a good balance of specific information, quality photos, and being written at the level of the students.

I can see the value in purchasing a few units to use, especially if there is a particular science topic you wish to study. I was impressed by the fact that for the most part, my 12 year old could use the curriculum by herself. Since we are trying to transition to her working independently as much as possible, this was a good fit. If you are wanting to use MBTP, but cost is an issue, consider how many of the books you can borrow from your local library, and think about the online guides as a viable option.


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Thankful Thursdays - 6/27/13 Community Gardens

Today we are thankful for our community garden plots. While we have several small planting beds here at our home, we wanted to try something different this year. We wanted to try planting the "Three Sisters" like the Native Americans did/ do. This includes corn, squash or pumpkins, and pole-type (climbing) beans. 

We stopped by our plots this evening to see how things were growing. They're growing well. It had been a few days since we've been there, but because it's been raining frequently, I wasn't worried. We made our plans for what to bring on Saturday morning. We need to do some weeding and mulching.

So here's a couple shots to show you how things are going. We did plant a few other things besides the Three Sisters, but they're the star of the show! 

Our community garden plots are 8' x 8', so we're going to spend some time re-routing our pumpkins to keep them in the boundaries of our area. We love pumpkin pie, so we hope they continue to grow & produce some good fruit. So far we have a few flowers blooming.

One of the best parts is the 'community' of it all. One of my best friends has the plots next to ours, so we take turns watching over each other's plants, and sometimes we even get time to meet up at the garden and chat while we tend our plants!

Here's hoping YOUR garden is doing well too!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thank You!

I just wanted to say "thank you" to you, our readers! Sometimes, it seems like there is no one 'out there' and we're just writing to entertain ourselves... but then one of you comments on a post, or emails us about a product review, or shows up at one of our favorite places... YOU make us smile!

So, here are some random things floating around at the end of a busy day. Perhaps they remind you of your house...

There is a lot going on around here these days... much of it involves 4-H projects.

The yard and garden keep needing attention... which is a good thing, no drought this year!  We are SO thankful for the rain!

We live individual lives, but collectively we make up the world. Find out what your piece is... and do something to help your neighbor.

Maybe, just maybe, what they need is a smile.

Thanks for bringing us a smile today! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Baseball Game

This afternoon we took the girls to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game. The Indians are the "farm team" for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We try to go at least once a year. The game was what you normally expect from Indiana... hot, muggy... and then... BOOM!

It was really weird, the clouds had been building for a couple innings, and we had checked the radar, but the rain was still a ways away... so we went to get ice cream. Just a few minutes after we returned to our seats, the BOOM! A strike of lightning off to the NW, and a huge thunderclap. God must have wanted the game to on on though, because the storm seemed to make a turn just NW of the ballpark. Two more innings went by, lots of menacing clouds, and lightening, still off to the NW, and no rain.

Then, a little bit of rain.

The Indians had gone up 2-1 over Charlotte Knights as the storm was building, and we were wondering if the game would be called because of the weather. After all, we were through the 7th inning.

But then something REALLY happened... the Indians fell apart. They stopped working as a team, and Charlotte went up 6-2. Maybe they were too focused on the weather and no longer focused on the game.

Sometimes our lives are like that.

Sometimes a scary situation arises, or we get distracted by worries, and we fall apart. What we should be doing is turning our eyes back on God, but we start watching the rain, and being scared by the lightening.

If this has happened to you, let me reassure you, God is there just waiting for you to call out to Him. He may choose not to calm the storm, but He will call you, His child. If you have fallen apart, let Him put you back together and lead you where He wants you to go.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thankful Thursdays-6/20/13 - the small things

Today I am thankful for the small things, because I know that sometimes, the small things can turn into big things. Either for good or for bad, we often see an item in disproportion to it's true value, worth, or eterrnal significance.

So today, I am thankful for small things. I am thankful that the lettuce is growing well in the garden. I am thankful that I have a full tank of gas to get us where we need to go. I am thankful for a pair of sunglasses on the bright sunny days. 

I am thankful that our girls got their things ready for tomorrow morning. I am thankful for a husband who is here, loving, caring, and parenting with me.

I am thankful that God's mercies are new every morning!

Find a reason, something to be thankful for TODAY.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Memoria Press - Geography 1 - Review

I have several friends who have spoken highly about products from Memoria Press, so I was quite happy for the opportunity to review their Geography 1: The Middle East, North Africa, & Europe curriculum. Arlene (7th grade) was the test student this time, since it is geared for grades 4 and up. I would say it would be appropriate for most students in grades 4-8. 

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The curriculm includes 5 books: Student Text, Student Workbook, and Teacher Guide for the Geography 1 region, and the Student Workbook and Teacher Key, Quizzes, & Tests for The United States.

I'll start with the US books. These books are for learning the location, shape, and capitol of all 50 states. The states are divided into 8 different regions, so your student can focus on a managable amount of information at a time. Since we had spent this past school year learning how to draw the US from memory, this was mostly review for Arlene, but it helped reinforce the capitols. If your student hasn't done much (or not done any) US Geography, this would be a great way to start. If purchased separately, the two books cost $12.95.

Now, moving on to the meat of the review, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe books. If you are wondering HOW this area was chosen to be learned covers the lands that used to be part of the Ancient Roman Empire. So, if that's coming up in your history for next year, this would be an excellent addition to your day!

The Student Text has a two-page spread on each country ( or country group, i.e. the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania are covered together on a two-page section, while France has it's own 2 pages.) The page on the left tells about the country's history, and also often contains something to relate to today, or at least post World War II history. This also includes a Fast Fact chart. The right page has a map, that shows the country, it's capital, and defining mountain ranges, along with neighboring countries. Once the student has studied the pages, they open the workbook where they find a page to record what they have learned, and a map to label. The points they need to label are listed in the "Word Bank" section of the page so they are not so overwhelmed about spelling.

This is more than just worksheets, it is processing the information, because the workbook has a section for "Fun Facts." Your student gets to choose which facts they found the most interesting about the country. Sometimes, they choose the Biblical connection facts that are found in their Student Text for many of the Middle Eastern countries. 

I can vouch that this curriculum works. Earlier this week the girls were looking at the world map we have on the wall in the Dining Room. When Emily (15) made a comment about all of the '-stan' countries, Arlene proceeded to tell her about the history of war between Pakistan and East Pakistan (Bangladesh.) Then she ended the history lesson with "I learned it in my Geography book last week."

In the Student Text, each area begins with an overview of regional history, including a Biblical refernce, and a map showing which countries will be studied. In the Student Workbook, each region ends with a few (usually 3) pages of review and maps to  label for the region.

Arlene and I had some good discussions about the Middle East, particularly about how her books had talked about Biblical refernces to the different countries (even though many of them have changed their names and/or borders.) 

Because it is summer vacation, and Arlene was working on her 4-H projects in the afternoons, I didn't give her any of the Quizzes or Tests from the Teacher Guide. I did, however, look through the Teacher's Guide. The front has all the answers to the Student Workbook sheets. Under 'Fun Facts' it says "Answers will vary." The quizzes and tests should help the parents check how well their students have retained the information. If your child is used to narration, and map drawing, you might decide to skip the quizzes and just give them the tests. A lot of this depend on if your student is a 4th grader, or an 8th grader.

I liked the independent aspect of this curriculum. Since Arlene understood the vocabulary words used to describe the countries ( or looked them up) she didn't need my help with the daily work. In the front of the books, it suggests covering 2-3 countries a week. I would suggest studying 2 countries a week, and spending the 5th day workingon drawing the coutries' shapes freehand. Of course, some student are quicker and may cover 4 countries a week. Since handwriting her answers has always been a slow process for Arlene, we stuck to two countries a week.

Arlene said "I like it!" We are planning to continue using these books this Fall. Since written history starts in this region, I don;t think you can study it too much. These books will mesh well with our study of "Ancient Civilizations and the Bible" by Diana Waring. I am sure it would line up well with many other Ancient history curriculums as well. If you are doing multi-level, family-wide History, this would be a great supplement to have for the older students to take their learning farther in-depth.

Overall, Memoria Press's Geography 1 gets an "A!"


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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 6/13/13 - June Flowers

A quick walk around the yard this afternoon gave me yet another reason to be thankful- Flowers! In June, the early flowers are finishing, and the summer flowers are just getting started. As I walked around with my camera, I found 19 different flowers in bloom! So here are some snapshots of my reasons to be thankful today:

Red Clover

White Clover

White Yarrow

Pink Yarrow

Johnny-Jump-Ups (viola)



Coreopsis daisies


Lavender Lavender

Pinks (related to carnations)

Wild daisies


White Lavender

Stella D'Oro daylily

Lamb's Ear




I hope you enjoyed our flowers! Find something in your yard to be thankful for... or plant something this weekend!

Come back in July, I'm sure to be thankful for our other daylilies, and tomatoes!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Birdcage Press - Wild Cards (baby animals) Review

Birdcage Press Logo photo Birdcage-logo_zpsa3a9555b.jpgWe recently received a wonderful set of cards from Birdcage Press to review. Our set is - Wild Cards: Baby Animals Around the World. Not only is it fun to play games with, it's quite educational as well. (It's not just for kids- I learned about the animals too!)

This deck of 36 slightly-oversized cards comes in a sturdy box which also has a 28 page fact book. While the animal cards come in pairs (i.e. 2 baby giraffes) each card has different information about the animal pictured. When you combine that with the page for each animal in the fact book, you end up with a mini-study on 18 different animals.

The cards are divided into 3 animals from each of the 6 areas included: North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and 'Polar Regions.' Having the animals grouped by region gives an added twist to the games listed in the back of the fact book.

Although the cards are listed for ages 6 and up, our 13 & 15 year olds had fun playing with them, and sharing them with their friends. Let's face it, it's cool to play 'Go Fish' with kangaroos and panda bears! 

Overall, the cards are just the right size. They are only a little larger than playing cards, so small hands can use them, yet they are big enough for both a great photograph and some animal information. We all had fun playing with them, and we think your family will have fun with them too.

Birdcage Press has several other card game decks on various subjects. To learn more, you can visit them at OR click the banner below to read what other Crew families received to review!

Does anybody have an Orangutan???


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