Category Archives: special needs education

Fix It! Grammar . . . A T.O.S. Review

In all of the years of working on the education of my kids here at home, we have never, ever actually used a formal grammar program. Or, for that matter, ANY written grammar program, to be honest! I have basically practiced an informal method of correcting their spoken grammar as a part of our daily life, something I will continue doing, as I believe it works quite well for SPOKEN grammar. However, “The Artist”, who was the student reviewing a fiction writing course last year, really wants to go back to it, and to learn to be better at writing stories, so I thought that the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Teacher Manual] (Book 1), along with Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Student Book](Book 1), would perhaps be a good thing for him. I took a look at how it worked and decided to give it a chance.

This grammar program is from the very well known Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

IEW is a company I personally have never really taken the opportunity to really check out, because I was afraid it would be too difficult for my special needs guys. However, I am extremely glad we were blessed with the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar, because it really works, in just minutes a day!

Here is the basic concept . . .
Method: modeling proper grammar within stories. Instead of being taught a grammar rule, and then being forced to practice it with a bunch of exercises, followed by the next grammar rule, over and over (Lather, rinse, repeat, so to speak) in Fix It! Grammar, the grammar rules are taught as they are needed, within the context of a story that builds upon itself until, at the end of the lesson book, the student has written correctly, the entire fairy tale used at that level.

The Process: 15 minutes per day. The level we received is giving us 33 weeks of grammar instruction and practice, in only 15 minutes per day, and 4 days per week.

This program is incredibly easy to set up and to work through! If you have the student book, then your student will need a note book divided into two sections, which are Rewrite and Vocabulary.

On day one of each week, your student will read and correct ONE sentence. Yes, one. He or she will read the sentence, look up the bolded word in a dictionary and write the best definition which fits within the context of the sentence, and write that into the vocabulary section of their note book. This will be built on each day until at the end, they have their own vocabulary dictionary to refer to. Then, he or she will copy the sentence for that day into the rewrite section of their note book, using double spacing.

On days two through four, the student will use the abbreviations at the top of the page, as well as the provided grammar flash cards to help them remember how to mark the section. As with day one, the student does their “rewrite” in the notebook, writing with double spacing. They are to use their best handwriting, so this is also a nice addition to the day in giving them that particular practice!

While we received both the Teacher book and the Student book (both are very nice, spiral bound books), If you prefer, you CAN just purchase the teacher book at the cost of $19.00. The teacher book comes with a license allowing you to download the student book and print as many copies as needed for use within your own homeschool family. The Student book, available for $15.00, is well worth it though, depending on how much it costs for you to print, and whether or not you have more than one child. I happen to have four boys, so knowing that I can print it as needed when each of them is ready for this, makes this a bargain for me.

A placement test is provided if you are unsure where to begin your student, however, like many people, I chose to begin with book one, so as to create a good foundation upon which we can build with the levels which follow. There is also a webinar available to introduce you to Fix It! Grammar, along with how this program differs from traditional methods of teaching grammar.

Fix It! Grammar is intended for 3rd grade and up, but as I said, I personally think that if you, like us, have not done a formal grammar program, it’s best to begin at the beginning.

What did we think of it? Well, I find it incredibly easy to use! “The Artist” really does not enjoy being MADE to write, although he enjoys writing on his own time, so this was the perfect choice for him. I mean, really? One sentence per day? Even my lazy writer who constantly complains about his hand cramping from too much writing, is fine with this! He really doesn’t mind giving up 15 minutes out of his day, and when he is finished, he will have completely written the entire fairy tale himself, with correct grammar! The only real problem we have is keeping him from reading ahead to see the rest of the story, lol!

You will find IEW on the following social media:

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Bottom Line? Not only do I very highly recommend Fix It! Grammar from IEW, I think we will be continuing with it level by level. It is a very painless way to learn written grammar, and frankly, I like that. There is no reason education HAS to be dreary, if there is a better way, and this is definitely a better way, in my opinion.

Other Review Crew members have been reviewing this and other levels of Fix It! Grammar, so please click on the banner below to find out what they thought!
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Learning About the Old Testament and Ancient Egypt With an Online Course From Veritas Press . . . A T. O. S. Review

For a good number of years, my eldest, “The Batman” has repeatedly asked to learn about ancient Egypt. For all of those years, I’ve tried and tried to find unit studies, lapbooks, anything, that would be Biblically based, and would be at a level he could handle, but absolutely nothing I found would work for him. Enter, this review from Veritas Press!

We were fortunate enough to receive a full year access to the Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt, which costs $199.00, as well as the physical Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards, which are available for $19.95.

Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt covers the period from creation through the fall of Egypt to Rome.

The Veritas Self-Paced History is suggested for grades 2 – 6, but in our family, this is literally one of the first educational programs I have not had to make major tweaks to accommodate our special needs kids. πŸ™‚ Now, “The Batman” is 21, but with his developmental delays, his educational level in many areas is much younger. He is REALLY enjoying this class! I am so glad I was able to get this review! I have many times over the years, received catalogs from Veritas Press, and just thrown them away, because first, I thought their material looked too difficult for my kids, and second, because we don’t follow the “Classical Curriculum” method of homeschooling. Veritas Press, according to their website, is a Classical Christian Education provider, following the “Trivium“, which approaches education in the order of three stages of learning; grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.

We, on the other hand, are extremely relaxed, eclectic/unschoolers, so I wasn’t sure this would be a great fit around here, but so far, he is doing very well, and without very much help in navigating his way through the class site! πŸ™‚

Once we received our access, all I had to do was go online and register myself as the teacher/parent, creating a user name and password. After that, I simply had to add “The Batman” as a student, creating a user ID and password for him, and then register him into the course chosen. I had a few false starts and problems, but a quick phone call to customer support took care of that! One definite issue was that we needed to use the Firefox browser instead of Internet Explorer. Once we did that, things started to go much more smoothly. πŸ™‚ “The Batman” and I watched the tutorial on how to use this course. The tutorial was actually interesting to the both of us, and gave “The Batman” plenty of opportunities to practice the different things he was being taught how to do, so that once he began the course, he was able to do them by himself.

OK, so by now, you’re likely wondering how the Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt works, and how we are using it, right? Well, this class is COMPLETELY done online, up to and including the quizzes and worksheets, which is great for “The Batman”, who has very poor fine motor control, and thus, very poor hand-writing. He is very much enjoying that part, for sure! The lessons are all done at the student’s own pace, hence the name “Self-Paced History“! This is good for us, because we are definitely a “go at your own pace” kind of family. πŸ™‚ The only thing he is using that is not online are the very nice Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards, which you can see below:

This is the front of one of the very large, colorful cards.

The reverse side of the card nicely sums up what is being taught, along with giving ideas for additional resources.

Of course, he is also using his own Bible, because the course uses the New King James Version, whereas Our family uses only the King James Version, and we want to be certain that he doesn’t miss something by using a different version of the Bible.

There are suggested literature resources to add in if you choose, but since so far they have been books that we do not own, what I have had him do at the end of each lesson where there is extra reading, is to read the summation of that portion of the book referred to. This is working out OK for now, but I know that he would like very much to have the go-along books, as he is so very interested in this time period. If you do prefer to have the Literature on hand, there are three different literature kits available for the Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt. They are:

Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Self-Paced Literature Kit Level 1, available for $110.30 (a savings of $17.44), and is recommended for children who would be generally in 2nd or 3rd grade, and comes with 13 books.

Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Self-Paced Literature Kit Level 2, available for $88.35 (a savings of $16.39), and includes 10 books.

Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Self-Paced Literature Kit Levels 1&2, in case you have children at multiple levels, available for $151.14 (a savings of $27.47), and containing all of the books in both levels.

I am seriously considering at least the purchase of the level two package for “The Batman”, so that he can read them along with the lessons and have them to keep.

One of the things I really enjoy is that at the beginning of each lesson, we review a memory song about the 32 events we (I say we, because I find I am learning along with “The Batman”, as are the other children) are going to be learning. Repetition is a great thing when it comes to something like this, and basically, we are learning a Biblical timeline through this song. Both “The Batman” and I like very much the fact that if he logs off before finishing a lesson, the course remembers where he was, and when he logs in again, he is asked if he wishes to pick up where he left off. He can also print off the quizzes and such when he finishes them, something he loves to do so that he can show them to his dad when he gets home from work. πŸ™‚
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The lessons themselves are quite fun, using videos of characters who speak and move, fun games, fun songs, and tests/quizzes that are in different formats, helping “The Batman” to remember that there are different ways to answer the on-screen questions. Sometimes, he has to drag things to the correct order, sometimes he has to click the correct answer, and so on. This has been good for him, as he has always been one to not like things changing too much. Each “lesson” runs anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes, which is really just about perfect for “The Batman”, and there are 160 lessons in this course. Here he is, along with HIS Batman, going through a lesson. πŸ™‚
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I am very pleased with this course, and would definitely consider more Self-Paced History courses from Veritas Press, though I’d need to plan ahead for my budget, as I would want to have the literature bundles as well. As I said before, because “The Batman” really loves this time period, and wants to learn as much as he can, I intend to ask his dad if we can manage to order the literature bundle. It is so rare that we’ve been able to find something this good, that he actually WANTS to learn about. I believe it’s more than worth it, and then the books will become part of our permanent educational library.

You can learn more about Veritas Press through their various social media links:

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99 other crew members reviewed this and other products from Veritas Press. Please do go and check them out by clicking the graphic below:
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Supercharged Science . . . A T.O.S. Review

My children and I were fortunate enough to review the e-Science Premium Membership from Supercharged Science last year, so we were surprised and happy to be given this review again this year! πŸ™‚

Last year, I was so excited about this that I printed out the shopping list for the unit we wanted to work in, without paying attention to the teacher, Aurora Lipper (more about her later), so I would up purchasing supplies for EVERY SINGLE experiment, LOL!

Then, we went through a period of time with varied health problems and surgeries, and after the review period we never finished the unit. 😦 When the boys found out we were doing it again, they BEGGED to do more of the experiments making crystals, and since we basically still had everything (although I did have to buy some sugar and some alum), that was what we did.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about Aurora Lipper, and Supercharged Science, though, before getting into what we did this time around. She attended Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (with a minor in Mathematics and senior project in Rocket Science) in June 1996. Aurora also, while still in CA, continued her studies in a Master’s program with Edward Air Force Base, later becoming a student pilot, followed by receiving her private pilot license. Aurora Lipper, who is the online teacher at Supercharged Science, is a real rocket scientist, who has a gift for bringing her lessons to a level where even younger kids can understand them, along with no-nothing mom’s in the science department, like me. My kids are special needs kids, with various developmental disabilities, and they are very enthusiastic about this program.

As I told you above, at the request of my four boys, we chose to work more in the “Matter” unit, because they wanted to do more crystals. First, though, we re-watched the video on Unit 3: Matter (Getting Started)
. Then, it was onward and upward!

We did NOT actually begin with crystals, however. We started with an experiment called “The Breaking Point”, in which we learned about tension, compression and elasticity, using a pencil. We learned that wood (such as in a pencil) is very elastic and can bend. We also learned that eventually, there is a “breaking point”, and the pencil will snap. While we looked at the differences in the breaks in the pencil, Aurora explained about tension and compression.

Watching Aurora’s video . . .
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Here, we have the boys taking turns bending the pencil . . .
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And now, “The Batman”, finally breaking it in half!
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They really enjoyed this one. Being boys, they like it when they get to break stuff! πŸ™‚

So, now we were onto the one experiment that all four boys have been DYING to do, Rock Candy crystals. We made a supersaturated solid solution, just like we did when making laundry soap crystals in our previous review, except THIS one was made of water and sugar.

First, we watched Aurora teach us on the video . . .
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And then, we began making our solution.
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Here is “Mr. Loquacious” taking a turn at stirring . . .
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Next up, “The Puzzler” . . .
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Then “The Artist” took a spin . . .
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Followed by “The Batman”.
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After what was a LOT longer time than we expected from what was on the video, we FINALLY got the sugar dissolved! We then divided it into separate glasses, and added food coloring to each one.
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We seeded our skewers with sugar, and then put them into the glasses just the way we had been shown on the video . . .
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And left them to do their work. Sadly, we must have done SOMETHING wrong, because they’ve been sitting a while and there are no crystals yet forming on the skewers. We will try again, though! πŸ™‚

We WERE successful with another crystal experiment, this one involving cleaned out egg-shell halves, water, alum and food coloring.

Here are all of the supplies we used for egg-shell crystals . . .
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Here, the water and alum is being mixed to make another supersaturated solution.
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We set the egg shells, filled with the solution on a plate with an upside down bowl in the center, so they would stay put.
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We then left them to do their work, with me pretty much constantly telling my boys they didn’t need to check them every five minutes! πŸ™‚

Happily, we were successful this time, YAY!
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Aurora said in her video that we can keep making the supersaturated solution with the alum and water, and adding it to the same egg shells, which will eventually give us a simulated geode. My kids are wanting to do this, so we’ll see if there is a bulk food place here where I can buy a larger supply of alum without spending a fortune at the grocery store on it.

We received the K-12 plan for this review, however, you can either subscribe to that at a cost of $57.00 per month, or the K-8 level plan for $37.00 per month.

Do I believe it’s worth the cost? Yes, I do, especially as we would very likely stick with the K-8 plan. Do I feel it is truly affordable? Well, it really is not affordable for us, and I think many homeschoolers would feel the same, sadly. Most homeschoolers live on one income, and have to pinch the pennies very hard. As I said in my previous review, I’d love to see a substantial discount for paying a whole year at once, whenever the family can afford to sign up and do that (like at tax refund time, lol!), or even partial scholarships. Other than that, I can see nothing but positives regarding the e-Science Program from Supercharged Science. We LOVE it!

To follow Supercharged Science on social media, please check out the following:

https://www.facebook.com/superchargedsci
http://www.twitter.com/aurora_lipper
https://www.youtube.com/user/auroram42

https://plus.google.com/u/0/112193545312804826871/posts
http://www.superchargedscience.com/blog/

Other crew members also reviewed the e-Science Premium Membership from Supercharged Science. Please click the graphic below to discover their views!
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Where You’ll Find Me Today . . .

I am being featured in the Crew Spotlight today, on the Schoolhouse Review Crew Website.

You’ll find me sharing about homeschooling being a lifetime commitment, as opposed to a “season in my life”, and I sure hope you’ll find it interesting and informative. πŸ™‚ To go and check out what I have to say on this topic, please click below, and while you’re there, check out the rest of the site as well!

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As always, I’d love it if you join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just go and enter your email into the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog, and never miss an update! And if you do enjoy “My Journeys”, please, go to our Facebook Fan Page and “like” it. I’d sure appreciate it if you did! πŸ™‚

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Learning Can Be Many Things . . .

And does not come from textbooks only! Here is “Mr. Loquacious”, working on a structure made with his sports trading cards . . .
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House of Cards 002

He is learning patience (it keeps falling down), he is practicing engineering, he is designing.

In the end, it turned out he was simply preparing a place for his hot wheels cars to crash into and destroy, but I failed to get a picture of that, lol!

As always, I’d love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys”. Just enter your email information into the “sign me up” button at the top of the page and never miss an update! Also, if yo enjoy this blog, please go to our Facebook page and “Like” it. Thank you! πŸ™‚

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French Essentials . . . A T.O.S. Review

When I was offered the chance to review French Essentials in our homeschooling environment, I thought about it for a little while first. My kids and I have been trying really hard to learn another language, but I thought it would be fun to take a break and see how we would do with French.

For this review, we received the Full Access Online Program, which has given me everything they have to offer. You can purchase the Full Access Online Program for $149.95, which will give you every one of the modules (there are four so far, with module five on the way), for a total of over 90 lessons and an entire year to get them all downloaded to your own computer! This is a savings of over 57%, as opposed to purchasing one module at a time for the cost of $69.95. Also, with the single modules, you get only 90 days to get all of the lessons and workbook materials downloaded to your computer.

From the French Essentials Home page:

“French Essentials is a complete, downloadable French curriculum with online features that include culture, fun exercises, lesson tests & more.
Designed by experienced French teachers specifically for home learners, it is clear and easy to use and does not require previous knowledge of French. The well designed lessons teach French in an easy to follow, gradual, step-by-step method with video & audio instruction that allows students to interact with the language in a fun and engaging way.”

French Essentials takes your homeschooler through all four language acquisition skills:

reading
writing
listening comprehension
speaking

They use a multi-sensorial approach, beginning with audio. We were able to read the lessons, then click on various characters, letters and words in order to hear the correct pronunciation. These sound files are embedded right in the pdf that we downloaded for each lesson.

Also embedded in the pdf lessons were little videos of a French-speaking teacher giving us time to “watch, listen and repeat”.

We also were able to download the workbook and workbook answer key for each module, which give us the opportunity to practice our reading and writing with the printable exercises, which are there to help us to reinforce speaking and comprehension as we learn to correctly understand the grammar and sentence structures in the French language.

In addition, included in the package for registered users are the following components:

Online quizzes, learning activities and French Culture. The online quizzes include things like online flash cards, listening comprehension & spelling, 2 challenging games (Scatter & Space race) and a test section that gives parents 4 different evaluation options.

The authors of this program are a married couple who are teachers living in St-RΓ©dempteur, QuΓ©bec, a suburb of Quebec City with their two children, who both attend school in French and are homeschooled in English. They are so passionate about French culture and the French language!

In their own words, here is how they began this endeavor:

“We began as a small tutoring service which came about through requests for tutoring from friends in the homeschool community. This eventually led to the development of a DVD French curriculum for home use. In August 2010, in order to make it more affordable and accessible, French Essentials was converted from top to bottom into a new downloadable format and http://www.frenchessentials.com was launched.”

If your child (or you, for that matter!) have had any exposure to the French language, there is a placement test you can use here in order to find out where you need to begin. WE began at the very beginning, of course, lol!

Here is what you’ll see when you log in after purchasing . . .

You can also go to the online exercises . . .

Or to the section on French culture!

If you go here, you can see a sample lesson from module one, and here is a sample of one of the videos, also from module one . . .

For more information about how the program works, what you can expect, and several sample lessons and videos from later modules, you can go here

What I like about the French Essentials Full Access Online Program is that as I said above, it has allowed me to download everything to my computer. I like that the sound and video files are actually embedded right into the downloaded lessons, enabling us to read it, hear it, see it, and say it.

What I didn’t like was that for some reason I couldn’t do either the sound files or the videos on the laptop computers my boys use for homeschooling, so we had to crowd around my desktop (which is newer) for our lessons. I had no problem at all on my desktop when I was prompted to install needed programs in order to use the sound files and videos, but on the laptops, I got nowhere.

While my kids were able to follow the read it, listen to it, view the video, and then repeat what was being said, at this time the worksheets are proving to be too much for them. But as I’ve said before, I often need to tweak homeschool curriculum to accommodate their various special needs, and it is my hope that a little later on, they’ll be able to handle them. πŸ™‚ Right now, though, I’m hearing an awful lot of “French is too hard, Mom!” πŸ™‚

I believe this is an excellent program, especially for the home learner. In fact, even though this one turned out to be a bit too much for my kids, it isn’t too much for me, and I think I will continue on with it myself to see how much *I* can learn! πŸ™‚

To read all about what my fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of French Essentials, please click on the graphic below!
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Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics . . . A T.O.S. Review

If you are looking for a hands on, Charlotte Mason Style Homeschool Science Curriculum with a definite Christian world view, you will certainly find it in Exploring Creation With Chemistry And Physics, written by Jeanie Fulbright and published by Apologia. This curriculum is written for children anywhere from kindergarten through grade six, and is perfect, in my opinion, for working together as a group, even in a multi-age group.

As reviewers, we were allowed to select any two of the notebooking journals which go along with the text book. Because I had hopes that at least one of my kids (“The Artist”) would be able to use the Regular Notebooking Journal, I asked for it . . .

Along with a copy of the Junior Notebooking Journal.

Because of a mistake in shipping, I actually received two of the Junior Notebooking Journals. Apologia was kind enough to replace the missing journals for those of us who received the wrong ones, and ESPECIALLY kind enough to allow us to keep the wrong ones! In the meanwhile, I was able to acquire two more Junior Notebooking Journals from other reviewers. πŸ™‚ As it happened, this turned out to be a real blessing, because although “The Artist” probably CAN handle the regular Notebooking Journal, he definitely preferred the Jr. one.

The Notebooking Journals are very similar, but the Junior Notebooking Journal actually has a lot more in it for someone who likes art, and the Regular Notebooking Journal has significantly more writing to do, something “The Artist” gets balky about if he has to do it with handwriting as opposed to using the computer.

One of the best things about the Apologia is that when we use it as a read-aloud (and we do!), the text is very easy to understand, and there are plenty of good quality color pictures to go along with the text.

Spread throughout each chapter (Lesson) are boxes with the heading “Try This!”. It may be a small experiment, a game, or something else, but it always goes right along with what is being taught in that section. Some of the “Try This!” sections we have done are:

The 20 Questions Game, which teaches the skill of being able to describe the properties of matter.

Figuring out the volume of a small rock using the method discovered by Archimedes . . .

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during which we discovered that this small rock from our yard came in at about 50 cubic centimeters.

We began learning about density using two eggs, two glasses of warm water, and one half cup of salt . . .

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We learned more about mass, volume and density by seeing whether different objects would sink or float in a bowl of water . . .

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And we also did one other “Try This” to learn about buoyancy. The idea was to build a foil boat, put it into our “ocean” of warm salt water . . .
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then begin adding pennies (pirate treasure) to see how many it took to make the boat sink . . .
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In case you were wondering, it took 56 pennies!

In the main text-book “Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics“, there are 14 lessons. The breakdown of the lesson plans are in the Notebooking Journal and the Junior Notebooking Journal, with the suggested pace of two days per week, doing one lesson per week. As usual, we are slowing this down quite a bit, in order that all of my children can really get as much as possible out of this curriculum. I think that’s one of the best things about homeschooling, the fact that we can go at our own pace, tweaking here and there as needed to accommodate the various special needs my kids have.

There are also a multitude of lapbook style things in both of the Notebooking Journals for the student to cut out, fill in, and then glue to the appropriate page of their notebook. We are just getting ready to begin one of them, in fact!

There are vocabulary activities, such as crossword puzzles, word find puzzles, match-up sheets, vocabulary puzzle pieces, etc, and, should you need them, the answers are all in the back of the Notebooking Journal!

Here are just a couple of pictures from our Notebooking Journals:

From the Junior Notebooking Journal, you can see that my kids are not carbon copies of one another when it comes to coloring!
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Here is the one picture I managed to get of “The Artist” beginning a crossword puzzle in the regular Notebooking Journal, before going back to the Junior Notebooking Journal, which he very much prefers! πŸ™‚
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Apologia is a good fit for my family, and we will continue to use it, but with one small adjustment in addition to slowing the pace down quite a bit. The only other change I will make is that when they have a copywork page with a Bible verse, I will be having them use our King James Bible, rather than the version used in the curriculum. As my regular readers are aware, that is my one pet peeve with Christian homeschool curriculum, it is mostly written using other versions these days. I would love it if this were offered with the option of being published using the King James Version for those of us who will use no other version of the Bible. In the meantime, I guess I will just continue to adjust for that by typing the verses out from the King James Bible and then adhering them to the Notebooking Journal over the other version.

The Textbook “Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics” by Jeanie Fulbright can be found here at the cost of $39.00.

The “Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal for Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics” can be found here for $24.00.

The “Junior Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal for Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics” is available here for $24.00.

My children and I are very much enjoying this Homeschool Science Curriculum, and I hope you will, too!

To find out what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of “Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics“, please click on the graphic below!
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