Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: My Student Logbook

A few years ago, if you'd told me we "needed" a Student Logbook from My Student Logbook, I probably would have rolled my eyes and told you that they didn't fit our homeschooling style. But things change . . .

Much to my annoyance, the state we live in has extensive rules about what homeschoolers have to report to the local school district. When the girls were younger, while I still found it annoying, I at least knew everything they were doing, because we worked together on everything. The last year or so, we've discovered a new challenge. More and more of Lexie and Ashlyn's schoolwork is independent. Because we don't do "grades" they check their own work, as needed, and ask me when they have questions about things, but I have no reason, except for the state's regulations, to know specifically what subjects they do each and every day. I honestly don't CARE if, one day Ashlyn spends a big chunk of time on math and doesn't get around to handwriting, and then another day, the opposite happens. I'm perfectly content to check in every so often and see how they're progressing, which normally I can tell just by listening to their chatter :) But for whatever reason the state wants to know exactly which books we use which days, sigh . . .

After trying a variety of approaches I had settled on a small white board with each of their independent work written on it. They checked off what they did each day, and at the end of the week, I recorded it in my spreadsheet along with the non-independent work that I keep track of.

When My Student Logbook came up as a review product, and I started looking at it, I realized that it would accomplish EXACTLY what our white board was accomplishing, but also keep a permanent record of it! PERFECT! I showed the website to both girls and asked about it. For some reason, Lexie didn't want to change, she likes the white board, but Ashlyn loved the idea of having her own book to record her work in, so she perused the large selection of cover designs and chose her favorite (Butterflies and Roses). I chose to get the undated logbook so that we could customize it as needed, since we school year-round.

My Student Logbook is available for $15 and is suitable for 2nd grade and up. Personally, I feel that the value in this product is in recording independent work, which for us, doesn't start until more like 5th grade, but each homeschool family is different in that regard. As long as your child can read and write enough to know what's on the checklist, this can be a great tool.

The My Student Logbook website has great videos explaining how the logbook is set up. In the front of the book are pages to write the list of subjects/tasks that you want your child to do. Then you can cut that list out, tape it onto the back of the first (or next) logbook page, and fold over. Then the list of tasks gets re-used from week to week until you need to change your child's task, when you get another task list and start over. I LOVE that! The back part of the book, after all the logbook pages, includes some "about me" type pages, which I left option for Ashlyn to fill out as much or as little as she'd like. If she does fill it out, it will make it a nice "memory" of what was important to her at this age. That section also includes pages for recording test scores, which doesn't apply to us, and books read, which we're recording in the regular logbook pages, so I would guess at some point Ashlyn will just pull those pages out and get rid of them. One final note, I love that the back cover of these books are a nice heavy vinyl material, it makes it so much sturdier and easier to write on when you're not at a table or desk.

As I mentioned earlier we opted for the undated version. We school year round and our reporting for the state "starts over" on July 1, so the dated options don't work with our schedule. I was also glad to find that the book's copyright gives permission to photocopy additional copies of the task list if needed. Especially with all the reviewing we do, the specific list of independent tasks do change pretty often.

Another way that I wasn't sure about was how to handle the fact that I need to know specific book titles, for our state reporting. So, one of our "assignments" is that I ask each girl to read at least one chapter in a book of her choice each day, but I need to know which book she's reading from. That was an issue we'd never fully addressed with our white board system, but with this, there's a handy "notes" section that hides under the to do list flap. I simply added a note on the task list, instructing her to write the title(s) for that week on the notes section. Then when I go to record the week's work in my spreadsheet, I can lift the flap and easily see what books she used each week. You can see in the picture on the left, that she's writing in the chapter book, or books she reads (if she reads multiple books in a given week, she comes up with different tic marks to indicate which book she read each day, she came up with that idea all on her own!), and also which Life of Fred book (currently Kidneys) she's working on.

I have to admit, I wasn't sure what I'd think of this one when I first glanced at the website, but after watching the videos to get a better feel for exactly how it was laid out, I knew it would be a great fit for us! Ashlyn is loving having a "pretty" book to record her work in, and I love having the permanent record. I'd really like to get Lexie switched over to using a Student Logbook also, but for some reason she's resistant to the idea and it's a battle I'm not willing to fight when she's willing to continue using the white board method.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up for the Week of September 8

Another busy week! More "fun" digging in the dirt . . . but we're making progress! We, and by we, I mean my dad with very minimal "help" from the rest of us, chiseled through the basement wall and laid most of the pipe. Dad confirmed that the way he wants to insulate it seems to be working. And all that in only a couple days, since Mom & Dad had company coming to their house for the 2nd part of the week, so headed home.

Once they left, we focused on school abit more! The big girls finished up their self paced history course on the Greeks and Romans, and by the end of the week we dove into the Middle Ages :)

Little Bit got to play with friends one afternoon and since her friend had just gotten a new loft bed that day, we helped put it together. She thought it was great fun to tighten the bolts with the allen wrench. (on an unrelated note look how long her legs are getting! Where'd my baby go?) Needless to say, since the loft bed included a slide, once it was assembled, she was more than happy to help them test it out too :)

Near the end of this week Little Bit told me she wants to learn to read. I'm not sure if she really does, though I've been joking for awhile now that if it's possible to learn to read through spelling, she'll do it. She loves to write things down and is always asking us how to spell words, or she'll spell words instead of saying them when she's talking (she calls Mama "M-a-m-a" for example. But this was the first interest she's shown in reading . . . naturally, since I wanted it, I could find all the McGuffey readers EXCEPT the Primer (and book 1), sigh . . . I finally found it this weekend, so may see if she's still interested . . . I have no interest in pushing her, but if she really wants to, I don't want to hold her back either.

I couldn't resist snapping this picture during Lexie's violin lesson this week. Their teacher has started having Ashlyn accompany her occasionally, which is a learning experience for both of them, but what really struck me is how LONG Ashlyn's hair has gotten. she often wears it up, so I don't notice how long it is. I love this picture! They're getting so grown up, sigh!

After music lesson, we stopped at a nearby playground. During the summer, Little Bit had wanted to play there a couple times but there were quite a few kids there. Now with school back in session it was empty, so since the weather was nice, we stopped and had lunch there and the kids played abit. Even my "grown up" girls aren't too big to enjoy the swings :)

As has become our tradition, on Friday night we grilled out for supper. Lexie decided on grilled eggplant with fresh made tomato salad. She insisted on "plating" our meals for us (why yes, we do watch the Food Network, why do you ask?) and wanted me to take a picture LOL.

And that pretty much sums up our week. Sabbath was Rodney's birthday, but it was a rainy icky day so we pretty much just went to church and relaxed at home. Next time my parents are available to watch the kids, he and I will go out to eat for his birthday :) 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up for the Week of August 31

Our week can be summed up as . . . lots and lots of dirt and rocks! 

My parents were here most of the week and our "project" was working toward getting the sump pump line buried underground. It turned out to be a MUCH bigger project than any of us realized. . 

First we worked on digging by hand. Lexie and Ashlyn were AWESOME help and spent the better part of at least one day, maybe two (the whole week kind of runs together in my mind), hand digging a shallow ditch.

Then we decided to rent a trencher and use it to dig down deeper (and not have to worry as much about the line freezing). But we still had to hand dig closest to the house/septic line/generator, so they dug down deeper there. Little Bit got in on the action too!

And helped Papa!

Even getting down into the ditch to help dig out what the trencher missed.

 What we discovered, when we used the trencher, was that, as soon as you get down past the topsoil, our yard is FULL of rocks (see the pile in the foreground of the picture below, those are just a few of the hundreds we pulled up)! The trencher couldn't handle them, so it was extremely slow, hard work to dig with the trencher. We finally decided that, for this winter, we'll just get the water past the driveway (to approximately where Lexie's standing) and pipe it across in front of the garage. Next year we'll figure out how to get it on back behind the garage, our long-term goal.

Ashlyn had to have a picture of the biggest rock that she and Lexie pulled out during their hand digging near the house. She has big plans for using it in the flower beds along the side of the house that she has claimed as hers :)

And that was pretty much our whole week. The girls did very little school, but plenty of "physical activity" LOL. Little Bit happily monopolized Mama's time as much as possible, but was also really good about understanding when we all were busy working on the dirt and rocks. And as seen above, she "helped" too! By the time Mama and Papa headed home on Friday afternoon, the digging was, essentially, done. This next week's project is actually laying pipes and filling it all in.

Friday night the weather was lovely, and while I admit my energy level was such that take out pizza sounded like a perfect supper, Lexie (current supper "cook") and Daddy (grill master) both voted for grilling, so we did. The girls and I enjoyed grilled corn and tried grilled peaches (they could have been riper, I was concerned that too "ripe" would just fall apart and fall down into the grill . . . I think I prefer my peaches raw, but we'll see if the girls convince me to try again sometime). And tofurkey hot dogs.  Daddy enjoyed chicken.

 Even after all their manual labor this week, the girls weren't too worn out to do an impromptu dance after supper, silly girls! Both big girls got new flip flops this week that have hard sole so they "clack" nicely on hard surfaces, I think it was that click clacking that inspired their dance. And of course, once they were dancing, Little Bit wasn't about to be left out.

Schoolhouse Review Crew Review: Heirloom Audio Productions

We love audio books and audio dramas! When my girls were younger, I kind of assumed that, once they were old enough to read, we wouldn't use audios as much, but I have one auditory learner and another who is about equal in auditory and visual, so they LOVE to listen to stories! Add to that, the fact that we spend a LOT of time in the car, travelling, and we listen to lots of audiobooks! So, when Heirloom Audio Productions gave us the opportunity to review Under Drake's Flag, of COURSE we said yes!

Under Drake's Flag is an audio drama based on G.A. Henty's book by the same title. We've listened to several of G.A. Henty's books as audiobooks, but this was the first audio drama we've come across. When I read on the website that some of the people who were involved in this production have worked for Lamplighter Theater, Focus on the Family Radio Theater, and Adventures in Odyssey, I was excited. Those are some of our favorite radio dramas and knowing the same people were involved in this one promised it would be a winner. And we were not disappointed!

We received a 2 CD set, including a study guide. We also received a .pdf download of a more comprehensive study guide.The 2 CD set, along with $70 worth of free bonuses, is available for $29.95 plus shipping and handling.

This audio drama is a full 2 hours long. It tells the story of a boy named Ned, who sails with Sir Francis Drake. This is a story full of suspense and adventure as Ned faces dangers at sea and is captured and finds himself facing the Spanish Inquisition. All these adventures help Ned to grow from a boy to a man, and teach great lessons on how to face adversity.

We received these CDs right before leaving on a trip that included a visit to a Maritime Museum, and tour of  a reproduction of a tall ship. The timing was perfect for enjoying this Maritime adventure story!

This audio adventure is great for ages 6 to adult. My sensitive 5 year old was busy watching a video while my 11 year olds and I listened to this story and I think that worked out well. The dangers Ned faces would have been abit too . . . suspenseful for her. I think her sisters would have enjoyed it at her age though, so as with so many things, know your own children and decide accordingly.

My daughter, Lexie said she likes that the kids were "good guys" instead of getting in trouble like often happens in stories, but it still had adventure and was interesting. Ashlyn was glad that "people who I liked didn't die", her number one complaint about "exciting" stories, hee hee.

In addition to the CD adventure, we also received a downloadable study guide to go along with the adventure. We opted to simply enjoy listening to the story and discussing the things that caught our attention, rather than using the study guide. However the study guide could be a valuable resource for a family looking for a more structure "unit study" utilizing this audio adventure, or if your children will be listening to it without you, and you want to "review" it with them.  Each set of questions includes:

  •  Listening Well - questions to make sure the child has listened to the story section
  • Thinking Further  - questions to help the child think beyond the story, draw conclusions 
  • Defining Words - vocabulary words from the story section
The last few pages of the study guide consist of a 3 part Bible Study based on the character lessons drawn from the story. And finally, a list of additional resources for learning more about Sir Francis Drake.

Because we were traveling, and aren't currently studying this time period, we simply enjoyed listening to an exciting, and uplifting, well produced audio drama. I am definitely making note of it to re-listen to when we DO study this time period in history in another year or so.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we have listened to several of G.A. Henty's books as straight audiobooks, and we enjoy them. However they are LONG books, and can be abit daunting. This audio drama is an IDEAL "introduction" to Henty's books, and once you're hooked, you may find that your family enjoys reading or listening to Henty's books (most of which are available in the public domain) as well. 

And, exciting news that I received as I was working on this review! Heirloom Audio Productions are working on a new audio drama called In Freedom's Cause, based on the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. This is scheduled to be released this fall (projected date: early November)!

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Under Drake's Flag Reviews

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up - The Week of August 24

I'm behind posting this week's wrap-up . . . not sure where the last few days have gone!

The first few days of the week were pretty "routine". You can see an example of it in my "day in the life" post.

We've been getting school done and the girls have been doing lots of scootering.

Mid-week, my parents came up to see us. There are a few house projects that we're hoping to have my parents help us with before winter, so they came up to at least get a start on things.

Little Bit was super excited to get to spend time with Mama after not seeing them all summer because of her schedule and ours.

We finished off our week with a night of grilling. The weather was AMAZING! Cool, not too humid, just perfect! And very not "end-of-August like". Lexie's our supper cook right now and she decided she wanted to grill eggplant. So we went to the farmers market and got eggplant! It turned out pretty good. They grilled circles of eggplant and she made a fresh tomato and avocado salad, Lexie was quite proud of herself and wanted me to "take a picture for your blog" LOL.

On a side note, much as I tend to not like plastic in my kitchen, I was so excited to find bpa free, PRETTY, plastic plates, bowls and tumblers on clearance at Five Below a couple weeks ago. They all fit neatly in a big white basket (you can kind of see it behind Lexie's head in the picture. And when we want to grill we can just carry the basket out and be ready to go instead of making umpteen trips with dishes. AND while all the girls have always been great about being careful with glass dishes, it does give me peace of mind to not have to worry about a plate being dropped or a mason jar (our every day glasses) getting kicked over and breaking, on the driveway.

Speaking of "the blog", I had to laugh. Little Bit was playing with the iPad and took a picture of something and said "this is great! I have to blog about it!" I about died!

And to finish up this post, a gratuitous picture of the girls loving on Moccasin, the cat:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Day in Our Life . . .

The final week of the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop is "Day-in-the-Life" week!

I don't think we've ever had a day go completely according to schedule, and this week is no different . . . I started to take pictures on Monday and then realized it was going to be a no school kind of day . . . oops! So, we ended up going with Tuesday as our DAY . . . I'm not good about remembering to take pictures of EVERYTHING so there are some gaps, but you'll get the idea . . .

So come along and enjoy a glimpse of our days . . .

Most mornings, once everyone's up and dressed we do chores, but Tuesday is our "catch up day" and we're semi-caught up so we took a break from chores today. Ashlyn got breakfast in the oven, then sat down to work on history on the computer while breakfast baked.

Meanwhile, while Ashlyn was making breakfast, Lexie and Little Bit went out to get some scootering in.

Breakfast is served . . . "birds nests" yummy!
While Ashlyn cleaned up from breakfast, Lexie read to Little Bit (normally that happens during breakfast prep but since they were outside I let them get some wiggles out).
 After breakfast, and clean-up, we did Bible. Sometimes we go upstairs, today we stayed in the living room. The girls drew pictures for their notebooking page while I read to them.
The rest of the morning, in no particular order, included . . .

 There was a moth fluttering around inside our house. Ashlyn captured it in a jar and she and Little Bit were looking up on the iPad to figure out what kind it was, and stuff.

 One of Little Bit's current favorite independent activity is playing with Thinking Putty.

 Lexie's turn working on history.

My "outside time" each day is hanging laundry :)

After lunch we headed to the library and Target. I wanted to get that over with, so we left the kitchen looking like this *blush*
When we got home I tackled the dishes while the kids did independent stuff . . . the kitchen CAN look like this, at least for brief moments of time . . .
Couldn't resist snapping a picture of Lexie when she sat down on the sofa by my chair to ask me a question :)

Both girls practiced their music in the afternoon, I was in the middle of other stuff and didn't go upstairs to get a picture of Lexie and her violin.

Don't mind the window that desperately needs to be cleaned, but I had to include this picture. Joy has learned that if he jumps up on the kitchen window we can see him from the kitchen and living room and are more likely to actually let him in.

 After hitting Goodwill for clothes on Monday, and Target for the pieces that we couldn't find at Goodwill this afternoon, the big girls were inspired to clear out/arrange their closet and dresser. Since they were both busy with that, and not fighting about it, I let them keep working on that instead of doing the normal tidying and sweeping that we do late afternoon.

 Time for Lexie to start on supper
 After supper, Ashlyn went out to water her plants while Lexie and I cleaned up from supper.
 Then all 3 girls took advantage of the cooler evening temperatures to get some more scootering in:

 Storytime . . . Little Bit was watching videos on the iPad while the rest of us listened to an audiobook.

Then we headed upstairs to bed. Ashlyn finished up a little more of her knitting project while . . .

Lexie read Little Bit her bedtime story

And then it was lights out and bedtime . . .