Sunday, January 29, 2012

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Review

I am loving our new science curriculum!  We are only on Unit 4, but it is going really well.  Over the past couple of years I have looked at numerous science options and hadn't found anything that we really liked.  REAL Science Odyssey is a great fit for us.

looking at an egg and labeling a diagram

Heart of Dakota (our main curriculum) contains some very light science.  I found it to be rather unorganized and random.  While we love Heart of Dakota for the most part, we're enjoying adding in this science program.  I tried to enrich HOD's science and add in more, but with it being so scattered, I found that to be challenging.

Other science programs that I have considered were either too textbookish (just reading about science doesn't seem to click with Lucy), or too open ended.  Instructions like "write about what you learned" do not work well with Lucy.  NOEO science, one that I considered, is like this.  The idea of it is great, Charlotte Mason style learning from a variety of living books, but it seemed to lack the teaching aspect that Lucy needs.  Apologia science looks good, but is too advanced for us at this point.

REAL Science Odyssey is one that I had looked at, but wasn't sure about.  I ended up finding the book used from someone and am very happy that I did!  We are using Life Science level one.  The curriculum is set up so that each week we read a page of information and complete related activities.  The information page is written to the child and explains things very well, including new vocabulary words and simple explanations.  Our routine has been to read the information page one day and do a lab, then another day we read over the information again and do the second lab activity.  It seems to be just the right amount each week and not overwhelming.  The activities have all been interesting and fun.

jello model of a plant cell and an animal cell

The teacher's manual includes a list of a few recommended books and websites for each unit.  I've checked these out from the library and enjoy having other sources to reinforce what we are learning.  Daddy reads these books to the kids before bed or Lucy looks through them at rest time.  The books are not necessary, but are fun to have on hand.  We purchased a couple of board games and a coloring book that are mentioned in the teacher's manual as well.

REAL Science Odyssey Life level one is for grades 1-4.  I like that it can be used over a range of ages, but I do not feel like I'm having to adapt things too much for Lucy.  I am not one who enjoys sifting through information and activities trying to decide which ones my child should be doing.  So far we have been fine just using the book as is.  (Lucy is six years old, doing 1st-2nd grade work.)  In the front of the manual is a list of main ideas for each unit, so I am able to tell whether or not she is catching the main point.  

The Life Science Curriculum can be purchased as a book or an e-book.  We have the physical book, and then also purchased the student pages.  The student pages are included in the book, but buying them saved me from having to make copies out of the main book for Lucy to use.  Home Science Tools carries the REAL Science books, student pages, and also a supply kit.  We did not need everything in the science kit, so I purchased the items a la carte, finding everything I needed on their website.  It helped that I had the teacher's manual in hand because I could refer to the supply list and see what we needed.  

You can preview the entire front section of the teacher's manual and the first nine units on their website!  (This gives you the supply list too.)  Definitely worth taking a look at.

The program does say it mentions evolution in the level two books, but not in level one.  We have not come across anything objectionable.  At the level two point we will probably go with Apologia or something else.  For now REAL Science Odyssey is an excellent program, right on Lucy's level, informative, and fun.  She asks every day to do science.  On one of the first days that we were using REAL Science Odyssey, Lucy said: "Mom, are you teaching me science or are you teaching me to be a scientist?"  Bingo, kid!  Both.

see more reviews at The Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I finally decided to give Vitacost a try.  I've seen it mentioned on several blogs, and had never paid attention.  I was pleasantly surprised at the prices and selection.  For $40.81 I got all this shipped straight to my door:

Maranatha Organic Peanut Butter (x3)   $5.87
Organic Bay Leaves   $5.12
Organic Breakfast Tea   $2.82
Organic Brown Rice Pasta (x2)   $3.80
Weleda Arnica Massage Oil   $14.35 (a splurge, but very helpful for pregnancy aches and pains)
Organic Worcestershire Sauce   $3.31
minus $10 off my first order!

These prices are cheaper than I have been able to find elsewhere.  Organic peanut butter has been $7.99 at Meijer lately, so I was happy to stock up on this.  Shopping at Vitacost was like shopping my local health food store, only with better prices, free shipping, and no dragging kids out in the snow.  :)  I'll definitely be ordering again.  In fact, they emailed me a coupon for 5% off my next order.

To get $10 off of your first order at Vitacost, use this link.  (I get $10 too if you sign up, but I definitely wouldn't be promoting this if it wasn't worth it!)  I'm thankful for such great shopping options, especially at 32 weeks pregnant.  Conserving my energy and saving a bit off of my grocery bill is great.

Other things on my shopping list for next time include: Emergen-C, Redmond Real Salt Organic Garlic Salt, Earth Mama Angel Baby products, and more.  You can create and save a shopping list at Vitacost as well, which comes in handy.  If you order, let me know what deals you find!  :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Craft Idea: Paint with Q-tips

My girls received this fun set of paints for Christmas:

The first time we used them, I spent all of my time washing paintbrushes.  These are not watercolors, so I had to go to the sink and thoroughly wash each brush and dry it when the girls wanted to change paint colors.  Today, I had a wonderful idea: paint with q-tips!

We used the paints and q-tips for our lesson on seasons (green dots for spring leaves, green and pink dots for summer leaves and flowers, red orange and yellow dots for fall leaves, and white dots for winter snow).  The girls then decided to make their own pictures:

I am much happier about letting the girls paint with these, knowing I won't have to clean out 100 brushes!

One of my favorite homeschool mom meeting topics is one where we all share random tips like this.  I'm thinking about hosting a Homeschool Help Thursday feature, kind of like Kitchen Tip Tuesday, except this would be any and all tips for homeschool moms.  Is anyone interested?  Would you have tips to share on your blog and link up?  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The After Christmas Toy Awards

After all of my obsessing and shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts, its always interesting to see what ends up getting the most use.  Here are a few of our most loved:

Lucy's Favorite: Twilight Ladybug - Julia already had the Twilight Turtle, and Lucy was thrilled to get the ladybug for Christmas.  With the girls sleeping in bunk beds now, having two twilight animals works well.  They are in use every single night without fail, definitely worth getting.

Julia's Favorite: Both girls really like their cameras.  This is the 2010 model that was on sale for $20 at Toys R Us on Black friday.  Julia isn't quite as adept at using the controls and finding the features on it, but Lucy has it figured out and shows Julia what to do.  They have both taken some adorable photos.

(As a side note, there are two simple video games on the camera, totally unrelated to picture taking.  We don't have video game systems for the girls and I was surprised that the games were on this camera.  I suppose its fairly harmless, but seems unnecessary.  Otherwise we do really enjoy the cameras.)

Esther's Favorite: She is in love with this little ladybug beanie that Lucy got her!

Mommy's Favorite: Playmobil 123 House - Esther has played for hours with this set already.  I like that the furniture kind of snaps onto the grid and doesn't slide around too much.  Its very toddler friendly and perfect for Esther, although all three girls enjoy playing with it.  Another nice feature is that the sides fold up and the furniture stores inside.

Mommy's Not So Favorite: Playmobil Animal Feeding Station  - I got this on sale for $10, but there are way too many tiny pieces in this set.  I'm not sure what I was thinking.

Best Inexpensive Gift: Melissa and Doug Sticker Books - All three girls got one of these sticker sets.  There are a ton of stickers in each pad and some very fun designs.

Best Book: Esther just got this one for her birthday.  It has a ton of animal names that the girls think are fun to read, "bush baby", etc.

What were your favorite kid Christmas gifts this year?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fun Felt! (and a Giveaway)

We recently discovered a great new toy that any little girl would love - felt dress-up dolls!  My girls were thrilled to receive a package of dolls, clothes, and a camping background set to review from Story Time Felts.

I am extremely impressed with the color and quality of these.  All of the designs are bright and clear, and they are soft.  They don't feel painted or like the printing will rub off at all.

The dolls are thick and sturdy enough that the girls can hold them and play with them.  You can kind of see in this picture how thick they are:

Each of the sets comes with a number of outfits and accessories, enough to entertain my girls for quite some time.  I love all of the detail on each piece!

The camping background set is very durable and stands up on its own:

Again, I love all of the attention to detail!  A fire, a marshmallow roasting stick, and even smores to feed the dolls.  The set definitely has all of the pieces we need to make up stories and pretend play.

We haven't tried it yet, but the dolls and clothes are washable.  Story Time Felts offers plenty of other sets - math, science, activity books, story based sets, and more.  Its great to see the girls fine motor skills at work as they enjoy these sets.  I love how open it leaves everything to their imaginations.  Of course, I checked, and these are made with non-toxic dyes right here in the US.

Would you like to win a set?  One person will receive a boy and girl doll set and a set of clothes, winner's choice!  To enter the giveaway you may do any of the following:  (Please leave a separate comment for each entry.  Also, leave an email address so that I can contact you.)
- like Fun Felt on Facebook
- browse the website and tell me your favorite item
- follow my blog or email subscribe
- share about this giveaway on Facebook or your blog
You may do any or all of these, for a possible 4 entries.  The giveaway will close on January 28th at midnight.  Good luck!

*Now closed.  Congrats Susan - fjvsusan...!*

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: The Nature Connection

The Nature Connection by Clare Walker Leslie is absolutely the best nature study book for children that I have ever come across!  I love the idea of nature study, but am always a bit unsure about how to begin.  Winter usually ends up stopping my plans short anyway.

After paging through The Nature Connection, I am extremely impressed.  The book makes nature study completely doable, with easy assignments and even space to do them in.  It also includes a TON of information (in easy to read bites) about nature, things you might see, sketches and good-to-know tidbits.  I'm amazed at all of the information included.  This book could very well serve as a homeschool science textbook for an entire year.  One of the best parts of the book is that it goes monthly through the year.  The assignments and information are relative to the particular month (even winter!).

I haven't decided if I am going to have Lucy write directly in the book, or in a nature journal.  There is actually a link provided in the book that you can go to and print off extra pages to write on.  At $10 on Amazon, this is a book that every homeschool or nature loving household should own!

Can you tell I'm impressed with this book?  :)  We received it for review, but the opinions are all my own.  :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Simple Snowflake Party

Esther turned two on Sunday!  Its hard to believe that it has already been two years since her crazy arrival.  We celebrated at home with family, a few gifts (including her new felt card table playhouse), and some snacks.

Our snow themed menu included:
homemade popcorn
sweetheart fruit salad
veggies and ranch dip
crackers and a cheese snow ball
cupcakes with white frosting and sprinkles

For Christmas, I got a set of Fiesta mugs and dessert plates.  They were the perfect size for party food.

I can't remember where I saw this idea, but I made little candles for our Christmas table this year.  I used a jelly jar, LED tealights (from Costco), and Epsom salt to look like snow.  Super easy and the girls love having these on our table!

I bought the snowflake tablecloth before Christmas, and found these snowmen salt and pepper shakers on clearance at Kohl's last week.  I love having a few simple touches that help our home look festive.  Since everything is snow themed, it can stay out a bit longer than the Christmas decorations.  ;)

The girls and Grandma cut out snowflakes for party decorations.  Simple and fun!
linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Monday, January 9, 2012

Felt Card Table Playhouse

I started a tutorial here, but this pregnant mama was just too tired to keep snapping pictures and figuring out how to explain this as I went along.  (Partly because I didn't even really know what I was doing, and I was sewing late at night after the kids were asleep!)  Thankfully felt is very forgiving and it turned out pretty well.  Allow me to show off our new felt card table playhouse:

This is a cover that slips over top of a card table - ie completely put-away-able.  

The apples and flowers are removable (velcro).   

The tree can have either apples, or apple blossoms.  This tree has both at the moment.

Mama bird also has velcro on her so that she is removable and can sit in the tree.

Here you can see her hungry baby a bit better:

Doghouse with doorway, removable bone in the dog dish, and more velcro flowers in the window box:

The mailbox opens up of course. 

We also made some paper envelopes that the mailman can deliver.

Close-up of the apple, apple blossom, and some extra birds:

I think she likes it!  Happy Birthday, sweet girl!
(and thank you to my mother-in-law for help with cutting things out.)

linked to Made By You Monday, Make It Yourself Mondays, Fabric Tuesday,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Homeschool Update - Beyond Little Hearts For His Glory

Lucy, age 6, is enjoying Beyond Little Hearts For His Glory.  We finished up week 11 just before Christmas, and are looking forward to continuing on with this in the New Year.  Over the Christmas break I've been thinking about how I want to tweak things next semester.  Here are some of my thoughts:

History - We are loving history!  I really enjoy reading the history books and Lucy and Julia both listen attentively.  History in Beyond does not consist of dry facts, but rather an interesting story about people who lived during that time period.  Sometimes the history activities are a little strange or don't end up working for us so we skip them.  I'm going to be adding in some history notebooking pages instead.

Poetry and Rhymes - Lucy is enjoying writing out the poem each week and decorating her handwriting.  We have all of her poems saved in a book with page protectors and she enjoys reading them to Grandpa and Grandma.  She doesn't memorize the poems, we focus more on the memory verse for that.

Bible Study - I love that most weeks have a song that goes along with the Bible verse.  We've had some good discussions about the verse and its application.  I've found that asking Lucy questions about the Bible verse as the teacher's manual suggests ("What does this verse say we should do?" "How can we show God that we love Him?" etc.) is not a good way for her to learn.  She balks at answering and it takes some work to get the discussion going.  The Morning Bells devotional is NOT a book we enjoy reading, and is not understood by my kids.  I'm glad that we are going to be starting Little Hands To Heaven as I'm sure Lucy will listen to the Bible and character lessons in that.

Language Arts - Spelling is easy for Lucy, she rarely misses a word.  I've wondered about adding in more grammar lessons for the technical aspect of things.  Looking at next year though, Heart of Dakota does start using Rod and Staff grammar, so I guess we'll just keep going with things as they are.  We are adding Explode The Code workbooks now and then for phonics reinforcement.

Reading - Lucy is doing very well with reading.  She is on week 16 of the emerging readers set.  (We started these before actually starting Beyond.)  I like that the readers are scheduled for us in order of difficulty.  She looks forward to each new one.  The comprehension questions are great as well.  When we finish these books, I have some ABeka readers to use.

Storytime - So far we have read Helen Keller, My Father's Dragon (all three books), and we are working on Little House in the Big Woods.  All have been big hits with the girls and much looked forward to.  Many of the storytime activities are fun and on their level.  Sometimes they try to include a character lesson that just doesn't apply to the story and we skip.  We've enjoyed learning a bit about story setting, plot, and so on, which I think are good things to be discussing.

Math - I really like the combination of hands on activities and workbook pages.  Lucy is challenged, but doing well with math.  The activities are excellent at helping illustrate the concepts being taught in each lesson.  Math is going very well.

Art - The art activities are fun for the most part, but I feel like they are "craft projects" rather than actually teaching art.  We have Artistic Pursuits books that I am going to schedule in once a week starting in January.

Science - I really dislike the science in Beyond.  In my opinion it is pretty random and shallow.  After doing some searching, I am going to be switching to another science program: REAL Science Odyssey.  It looks like it is going to be a lot of fun!

Spanish - Because it is important to us, we are beginning a Spanish language program.  We have used various resources in the past, but I recently ordered The Easy Spanish Junior Level to begin.  It sounds like something both Lucy and Julia will enjoy.

Overall we are happy with Beyond Little Hearts For His Glory.  Because Lucy is on the younger end of the age range for the guide, I'm okay with the lighter grammar, and skipping some of the history activities that don't work for us.  Its beginning to have an easy feel to it, but I think adding in art, science, and spanish will be plenty.  That, along with starting Julia in Little Hands to Heaven and a new baby due the end of March should keep us busy.  :)

What about you?  How is your homeschool year going?  Anything you are changing for next semester?