09 10

29 November 2017

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

We went to one of the "wilder" of the parks -- less sculpting by the big machines, less manicured, more natural, because I wanted to see if we could take some of the things that Hero and I have been reading in Madam How Lady Why, about how water sculpts the coasts of England, and find some of the same kinds of action happening a bit closer to home. The outing was successful beyond my wildest expectations.

First of all, we found the stream that I thought that I remembered -- and it being fall, it's done like a number of the small water ways around here, and it's mostly dried up. Which was perfect: we could climb right into the stream bed, and with a little care the kids stayed out of the water (I threatened that if they got soaked we'd immediately go home) and had a good time checking out the stream's banks. We saw where water had undercut, and followed the stream bed a little, just fooling around exploring. It's amazing how often fantastic things happen when we look like we're just playing outside: the trick is to learn to be observant and to ask good questions while you play. (John Muir Laws is great for learning good observation and question skills.) The importance of play is easy to overlook, but it's during play that you see the serendipitous discoveries that happen as the kids explore the environment.

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

And that's how it happened this time. First, I asked Hero a few questions to help him see the way that water works on our land, and find connections between his reading and the real world, so that we could learn to see in new ways, the way that our book is teaching. The book is suggesting the possibility of a type of intense learning through careful observation that I'd never thought was possible, and I'm really loving the way that it's starting to shape our thinking. So I asked a few questions to get encourage the connection between our environment and the book. It took maybe 5 minutes. Then, I stepped back and they started playing. They found a log that had fallen across the stream, bridging the gap, which was a lot of fun.

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

I didn't take pictures of the digging process (I wish I had, but I didn't realize anything important was happening, at the time), but Dragon got down under that log, and started banging and digging away at the bank, while my friend Mrs. T. and I chatted and played with her baby, and the other kids did other things -- and pretty soon both boys were digging, because they'd found this amazing clay -- it felt more than a little bit like play-doh, straight out of the ground. They brought over some for the baby to play with; she wasn't having anything to do with it at first, but Hero was persistent and she did eventually check it out. Which meant that the moms got to check it out, too. I didn't get a picture of the clay balls that I told the kids they could bring home, but I did think to get a shot of Dragon's feet. He was impressively muddy; this kid is an all-in type of kid!

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

Happily, a lot of that came off as we walked over to the playground and back. So it's not all on my kitchen floor, needing to be swept up!

So, this morning, we got it out and started playing with it. The kids wanted to make something from it. I knew just enough to know that it probably needed to be cleaned up somehow, to make it more usable. Hurray for Google, right? I found instructions pretty easily: dissolve the clay in water, and pour it off.

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

The clay floats, forming a solution with the water, and the dirt sinks. So you can pour off the good stuff, and dump the parts that aren't usable.

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

Once we got into the process, I was feeling a little unsure about how to go about getting the clay back out of the water, so I turned to YouTube to see if I could find an example of what it looks like when it's done, and I'm glad I did: turns out that, you can do a lot of pouring in this process. You pour the clay-water off pretty quickly, and that leaves behind your sediment. We had a lot more sand that I'd been expecting.

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

Then, you let it sit some more and the water starts to separate back out, and you can pour that off too. It starts pretty quickly: this picture was taken after maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and you can already see the clear water layer forming on top.

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

After it had sat for a few minutes -- I think it was maybe half hour, but it could have been a little more -- there was quite the layer of mostly clear water. Pouring it off turned out to be a little tricky, so I left it to sit a while longer and tried a scoop the second time.
The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay

We had two containers, and the larger one looks like it's going to take  just a little bit longer. It's interesting to see the variation between the smaller batch and the larger. The ball of clay in the big bowl was considerably larger than what went into the mason jar, and so the solution was a fair amount thicker, and it seems like it's taking a little longer to separate. Or it could be that the water is spread out over the larger surface. I don't really know. But I think that getting the water off this one will be a bigger challenge.

The Study of Nature: Finding Native Clay
We spent a while, pouring, waiting, scooping, and pouring again, trying to get as much water out as possible, while losing as little clay as possible. It's pretty tricky: if you disturb the clay layer, it sends up clouds of clay particles into the water layer. And it's really easy to disturb it. I think that the clay particles must be pretty lightweight. But after a while, we'd made some progress, and I started thinking about what I wanted to sacrifice to be a filter for these. They need to stay separate, because Hero had a larger lump, and had done nearly all the work with his, and the little kids had combined theirs and had a lot more help with the process, agreeing that whatever clay comes out at the end, they will split evenly. So it's problematic to just put the two containers together and work with a single lump, although that would simplify things.

I wish I knew how well this stuff is going to wash out of the clothes and fabric we use.
I need to check if we're freezing tonight... I wonder how that would affect things.

The kids want to get some more clay, and have been debating if they think it would be best to go back soon, in spite of the cold, or wait until spring, and risk the water being in the way. I've never paid enough attention to the stream to have any idea how full it gets in the spring and summer. We'll have to wait and see on that one. I am not super excited about digging in the cold, myself, and the filtration process is going to be tough the more we get below freezing, which should happen any time here. Whenever it is we go, I'm loving the way that they're learning to think things through and plan how to do what they want to accomplish.

I also started to study how to get the clay to a point where it's usable, and figure out how to go about making it into a thing. Nobody's really decided what they want to build yet, but before we can make a project, we need to have workable clay. Looking at this tutorial for using local clays, it looks like it may be worth our while to call the local pottery shop and see if they can help us out at all with firing our projects. I don't think that the oven is going to be enough. But the site does have a procedure for getting the clay ready to work. This process is going to take a while, I'm thinking. Lots of evaporation that needs to happen.

Which is what the guy said when I called the local pottery shop: get it wet and remove the impurities, then work on drying it out. And the drying process isn't quick. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like we're going to be able to have it fired at the pottery shops, so whatever we do will still be just messing around. Or maybe we'll learn from the survivalist websites how to fire things in the backyard. I don't know. But we've had a good time learning about this process. It's pretty interesting to see what we can do with fancy dirt that the kids dug up while they were playing!

26 November 2017

Switching Languages in the Gospel Library {Tutorial}

One of the best ways to integrate your adopted language into your daily life is to do some of your scripture study in it. Additionally, reading the scriptures in another language is a great way to see familiar passages in a new light. Using the Church's Gospel Library app for this is actually really easy. I'm using an iPhone, but I would imagine that it would be similar on Android devices.

24 November 2017

Our Family's Favorites: 2017 Homeschool Review Crew

It's the end of the year -- time flies when you're having fun, I guess! I find it pretty amazing that we've had a whole year with the Homeschool Review Crew. Like many Crew members, I thought I'd share our favorites. We were in on 28 reviews this year, and there were a bunch of great products!

Thin Stix Creativity Pack For Dragon(7) and Miss Kitty(4) the favorite was a no-brainer: they loved the Thin Stix. They've had so much fun with these. There have been coloring sheets, cut-out shapes, big projects and little projects -- and even a few projects that snuck into the living room. When they say "Mess Free Creativity" they aren't kidding. So I don't mind that this paint looks and feels like markers: we haven't had any serious mishaps, not even when one of the kitchen chairs was used as a table and the paint that went over the edge of the paper wasn't discovered for around an hour. Even then, it just wiped off. I have to say: I'm impressed with these. They last well, and stay good to the very end of the marker.

Hero had a harder time choosing: he was torn between the Innovators Tribe Engineering course, and Doctor Aviation. And it really is a tough call. Doctor Aviation was one of the few courses that actually got finished. (We haven't had Innovators Tribe long enough, but I'm guessing it's going to get done, too.) Lots of times, once the review period was over, we'd keep going for a while, then peter out. But Doctor Aviation was different. That one fed his passion for planes, and he not only watched most or all of the videos (many on his own time, and not as part of required school activities), but he also read several of the books recommended. Heck, I read and very much enjoyed several of the books -- and I don't care much one way or the other about airplanes!

Doctor Aviation
Latina Christiana Complete Set   
For me, I think that Latina Christiana was my favorite. Partly, this is because it was an answer to prayer: I've wanted this Latin course for a while now, but hadn't made the purchase. And it's a great addition to our regular line-up. And months after the original review, it's still working for us. Hero and Dragon are both using this program still, and we're moving slowly (Dragon is just a little younger than the recommended age, and it shows), but we're making steady progress. And although we're slow, I feel like we're laying a good solid foundation to work from. Getting the beginning of a new language thoroughly learned is so important, and well worth taking some time over. So we're working to mastery, of all the new grammar concepts and the new Latin vocabulary and everything else -- these beginning chapters have so much in them that is new, especially to Dragon, who has no previous grammar instruction to draw on. But he's getting there! And the kids continue to enjoy the work, which is a great bonus in a required subject!

So those are our top three: Thin Stix, Doctor Aviation, and Latina Christiana, with Innovators Tribe getting an honorable mention. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next year of reviews brings!

21 November 2017

My Bibles


One of the questions that I frequently get asked is what edition(s) of the Bible am I using. Three times in the past two days people wanted to know what I'm using, so here you go.

My most basic resource is my LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible: all of the traditional text you'd find in any KJV, but with footnotes that include all the rest of the volumes of scripture in the Church's cannon.

LDS Bible Study Guide

Although the "quad" version -- with the Bible bound into the same volume as the Book of Mormon -- is not as tough as getting a separate Bible and "triple", I always buy the quad because it pleases me to have a very literal fulfillment of prophecy in my hands:

The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: and join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become on in thine hand.
-Ezekiel 37:15-17 (emphasis added)

My quad is what I reach for when I want my scriptures. It would be remarkable how books written in such dramatically different times and places: ancient Israel, ancient America, and modern America, can be so completely unified in message and doctrine, if they were all from different minds. However. They all point to Christ. He is the Lawgiver; the prophets in the various times and places are scribes, not authors: Christ is the Author. So it makes perfect sense that they are in perfect harmony.

I've also got a chronological Bible; it's KJV as well.

LDS Bible Study Guide

I must admit... not a lot of thought went into choosing this: I walked into Barnes and Noble and grabbed one off the shelf. I was in a hurry. I think I had little kids with me... that didn't want to be at the store. The entire process of selection was probably less than five minutes from the time I arrived at the Bible section to when I headed to the checkout. It's pretty basic: just a paperback. Very few study tools; no footnotes at all. Not at all an expensive one; I just wanted something plain that would set it all on a timeline that I could put a bookmark in.

See, the cool thing about studying the Bible is that because there's this huge community of believers with whom we share the Bible, there are a ton of resources for studying it. Lots of different styles of reading plans: 90 days, or a year, or two years. The traditional order or chronological reading plans or plans that sample from all over. Tons of resources out there. My son had asked me to read it to him in story order, and looking at the chronological schedules, I knew that I needed to have a book to move through, rather than attempt to keep track of a piece of paper to tell me where to read from. I know from experience that I'll make a brave start, get distracted, lose my paper... and be defeated by the project. That's not how I wanted to do things with my son, so I bought a book. Now my younger son is also reading through the Bible with me, and so the book as two bookmarks in it.

Apparently, there are multiple ways of organizing things chronologically: there's some disagreement on the details. I don't really care. The one that I grabbed off the shelf that day has been fantastic for me, but I suspect another would have served just as well. Having it in story order means that there's a strong narrative to attach the doctrines to -- and that means that I remember them better. That I'm not bogged down in unending genealogies or other repetitive passages. We get through them, and then the narrative picks back up where it left off. Knowing where Isaiah and Jeremiah and especially the "small prophets at the back of the book" fit into the story... it makes a huge difference in knowing where they fit in the story; starting to see how they interact with each other is pretty amazing.

Those are the only two print Bibles I have right now. I also use the Church's Gospel Library app and the online scriptures edition quite a bit. I love the search feature that lets you search for any word anywhere it appears. I love that I can limit the search on the website to scriptures only -- or have a look at the larger library. And I've got a big fat Strong's Concordance that makes me a very happy girl. My husband got it for my birthday a few years back; I love it. That's not a Bible edition, exactly, but it's worth mentioning: it's a bit like the Bible Dictionary. It explains the Hebrew and Greek words that the Bible was translated from. Every word in the whole thing: Old Testament and New Testament. My dictionary-loving language-geeky heart is in love with this study tool.

LDS Bible Study Guide

Going forward, I've got my eye on a couple more Bibles. If I was going to get a second English translation, I'd probably pick up a nice copy of the NIV. Most likely the selection process will be at B&N again... and I'll just grab a simple one, like I did with the chronological version. I do also have a Japanese edition, but I haven't dug into it much yet, just some memory work with the kids, and a word study on "intent" so far. However, I know from reading the Book of Mormon that using a second language (even if you're still a beginner at the language) is a key to new insights into familiar passages. It's a slow process, but it's totally worth it. I sometimes use the Bible Gateway to look at a collection of Bible translations together, and see how a number of different teams translated the passage I'm interested in. That can be very interesting. And I've got "Nothing New Under the Sun: A Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes" and "Grace is Not God's Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul's Letter to the Romans" both by Adam S. Miller on my wishlist. Those two come highly recommended by my brother-in-law. And the more that I wrap my head around Bible geography, the more helpful and illuminating that is. I've actually started drawing and painting maps of various journeys for my scripture journal. The process of building a map is really instructive, and I highly recommend it.

And that's what I use.

19 November 2017

The Sabbath and Idolatry

Sabbath Day LDS

There's lots of different things that get focused on when we start talking about the Sabbath day. There's obedience, and holiness, and things we should (or should not) be doing. Sometimes, we talk about certain verses. The Doctrine and Covenants tells us to bring our oblations -our offerings- that we may be unspotted from the world. But there are other, less familiar, passages as well:

Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.
-Exodus 31:13, emphasis added

I feel like, with the Sabbath so often being disregarded, it's easy to think of it as a relatively minor part of the covenant. To be obeyed when there's nothing pressing going on, when it works for you. But if the boss schedules, you... what're you going to do? Ya gotta eat, right?

The Lord is pretty serious about the Sabbath, though.
Sabbath breaking was a capital offense under the Law of Moses.

Stop. Look at that again.

The Lord  is very serious about the Sabbath.
He ordered death by stoning for Sabbath breaking.

The Sabbath is important. All the time-
-not just when there's no game on.

Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that sould shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. 
-Exodus 31:14-15

So, why the emphasis? What's so important about a day of rest?

A few years back, I discovered that they publish chronological versions of the Bible, and when my kids asked me to read them the Bible, we decided that's how we're going to do it: we're going to get the story, in order. It's amazing. I can't recommend it enough: putting the story in order makes things make so much more sense. Hero and I have been reading it for a couple of years now; he was pretty small when he made the request. We sometimes read just a few verses, occasionally it's been multiple chapters. And as we go along, passages that I have read in the traditional order, but had not context for, they are starting to come into focus. And sections that always bogged me down and defeated my efforts to read the whole thing cover to cover have been split up and become much more manageable, when read chronologically.

We're about halfway through the book; it's exciting: I now think of it as being halfway through the story. Having a strong narrative to attach the sermons and prophecies to makes a huge difference in how I'm understanding and retain things, and in the connections that I'm able to make as I read it. So. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms have long since split, and the North has fallen into serious apostasy.

It started with Jeroboam. He's always, "Jeroboam, son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin". What a way to be remembered! He introduced idolatry in the Northern Kingdom; taught them to chase after false gods - wood and stone, made by their own hands, gods that don't think or breathe. Gods with no power.  And they refused to return to the Lord, on the whole, until they were destroyed. We read about the brief reprieve, under Hezekiah, who was contemporary with Isaiah (and just a little bit prior to Lehi -- about the same distance in time as we are from Joseph Smith right now). But if you look in the Chronology, in the Bible Dictionary, right under Hezekiah it says, "End of the Northern kingdom".

So, right before Isaiah there was a much less well-known prophet, Hosea. He, like Isaiah, was sent to a people who would not listen. Like Isaiah, Hosea's marriage was made at the instruction of the Lord, and his family was a sign to the people.

And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land had committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord. 
-Hosea 1:2

So Hosea does it; he marries a woman named Diblaim, and she bears him three children: Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, and Lo-ammi.

When the Law of Moses was given, the Lord told them that if they would keep the commandments, they would be the beneficiaries of a host of blessings. Rain in "due season", plenty to eat, protection from enemies -even when the other nations are vastly stronger.

Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. 
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; ... I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. ... And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. 
And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
-Leveticus 26:2-13

So there's this inverse connection between idolatry and sabbath worship: they don't seem to ever coexist. To the degree that you do the one, you don't do the other. If you obey the first of the Ten Commandments, if you have no other gods, then you will keep the Sabbath. They are linked. But Israel in the Northern kingdom turned to idolatry under Jeroboam, son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And now as Hosea is sent to them, their day of grace is nearly done, and destruction awaits them, foreshadowed in his children's prophetic names:

Jezreel: once the capital, after the fall of the kingdom it was never important again.
Lo-ruhamah: the name means "not having obtained mercy".
Lo-ammi: the name means "not my people". 

And then there's this amazing imagery, thoughout the book of Hosea, of Christ as the bridegroom -- and His church, the daughter of Israel, as an unfaithful whore of a wife, gone chasing after every sin imaginable, consorting with every other fake and useless god, turning away from the husband who sacrificed His very body for her.

But He loves her anyway.
He wants her back.

And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the Lord. 
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her... For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name... And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord. 
-Hosea 2: 13-20

There's this contrast between the richly deserved destruction, brought on by idolatry: betrayal so profound that it is compared, not just to adultery, but to whoredom. To deliberate, repeated, gross unfaithfulness in the holiest of relationships. And in contrast to the abominations of the people, there's this amazing steadiness, this depth of love, of mercy. The Lord knows exactly what his bride has done... and He wants her anyway.

That's Hosea. Hosea taught me what a terrible betrayal it is to put something -anything- before the Lord. And he taught me how, however often, the Lord is not just willing but anxious to have us back. Hosea's whole book is about how much the Lord loves His people. And Hosea's themes come back in later writers. You see it in the book of Isaiah, and tonight we found it reading in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah follows Isaiah, this time among Judah, in the Southern Kingdom. His prophecies cover a good chunk of time, including the reign of Zedekiah, the same king we're familiar with from Lehi's exodus from Jerusalem. Jeremiah picks up Hosea's theme:

Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase... The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. ... Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 
Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
-Jeremiah 2:3-12

In chapter 3, Jeremiah talks about how Judah had her sister's example as a cautionary tale: Israel turned to idolatry and was destroyed, but Judah has only given lipservice to the lesson; she plays at observing the forms, but the Lord is not at the center of her affections. And it's bringing disaster upon her.

And then Jeremiah offers the people the cure:

And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein...
-Jeremiah 17:24

The cure for the ills brought on by idolatry, the suffering that comes from allowing anything to come before the Lord in our lives and our hearts, is to shore up our Sabbaths. It is both a barometer, offering us a clue to how we are doing, and also an immunization, offering protection against the evils of the day.

Is your faith wavering? Keep the Sabbath.
Do you need blessings? Keep the Sabbath.
Have you strayed from what you know? Keep the Sabbath.

Keep the Sabbath. It's a starting place. A place to catch your balance and draw strength to face the rest of the week. Keep the Sabbath; attend your meetings and learn how to try a little harder to stand a little taller. It's firm ground from which to begin the long climb to the heights that He, in His mercy and love, invites us: to approach Him, to be joint-heirs with Him.

Keep the Sabbath; He is Lord of the Sabbath, and His plan is a plan of happiness, but unfaithfulness leads to misery every. single. time.

No wonder the Sabbath is a delight! 

17 November 2017

Science Project: Dissection of a Chicken Timer

 My chicken timer died. Quite a while back, actually. We turned it into a homeschool science project.

homeschool science project

It occurred to me that it could be useful one last time.

homeschool science project

So we took it apart. The kids did almost everything. Little things like this build confidence and skills using real tools, so I tried not to do any more than absolutely necessary.

homeschool science project

It was pretty surprising how many little bits and pieces there were inside.

homeschool science project

And how many of them were super fragile; no wonder it didn't last real long.

homeschool science project

We didn't know enough to be able to make it ring on purpose.

homeschool science project

Or even to really tell what parts the different thingers played. There seemed to be two springs, which surprised me. I think that this larger one was the one that would coil when we'd set the time.

homeschool science project

The second spring was really just a tiny wire; I have no idea what it did.

homeschool science project

But the other was much more substantial.

homeschool science project

It wasn't very happy when we tried to pull it off: it was attached firmly at both ends.

homeschool science project

Looked cool, though, uncoiled. And it stayed attached.

homeschool science project

It took a few minutes; more time that I'd suspected it would. But it was a lot of fun. It's a little tempting to get a working one, and see if we can't figure out more about it if we take apart one that works properly still.

homeschool science project

10 November 2017

Odd Bits: Free Homeschooling Resources


I've been enjoying listening to a number of podcasts lately. They're great for while I'm working on laundry, dishes, or other similar tasks where my hands are busy but my mind is not. And they're free. Gotta love when some of the great minds in Classical Education will share their wisdom and learning for free!


There's actually a lot of Charlotte Mason/Classical Homeschooling how-tos available for free. Ambleside Online (which I love) has a whole free curricula for K-12 education, and there is so much of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True in what they're suggesting. So many good books. The more that I use from their recommendations, the more I am grateful for their generosity. Plus, they have Miss Mason's volumes online for searching, reading, and studying, and a host of other articles and resources. You could get lost in there. If you want to give your children something different, then you have to spend time educating yourself, too. AO does a great job of supporting that process. I use a lot of their stuff.


But if you want something that's taking a specifically LDS approach to a Classical Education, then you might have a look at By Study and Faith: A Modern Charlotte Mason. They have a hymn rotation that focuses on both LDS hymns and also includes some less familiar ones from the larger Christian tradition; that are so many beautiful hymns out there to choose from. Each month, about mid-month, they post an article giving some of the background and history of the current hymn. Oh Say What is Truth was the hymn for October. The next thing they're working on is a scripture reading rotation that takes in, not only the Bible, but the full LDS canon, which will be pretty excited when it's ready to share! In the mean time, there's a number of other resources for how to implement Miss Mason's suggestions for gospel study within the LDS understanding of Christian theology. They've also got a growing collection of materials for studying various languages -- including some of the more obscure languages that our returned missionaries sometimes know, to assist in teaching those languages to our children, which is pretty cool. And that's all free, too.


Our main math spine is MEP (Mathematics Enhancement Programe), which is a full math curricula developed in the UK, also available for free. We started using it because it's free, but I'm really liking it (except that it's complected to switch into from Mequon, since the scope and sequence are very different). But it's really very good at teaching real mathematical thinking: in addition to helping kids get competent at working problems, it also trains them to think like mathematicians. Our first activity in MEP is a great example of some of the fun stuff, and the way that they emphasize patterns throughout. It remains my favorite thing we've done with MEP so far.


Librivox is a treasure trove of classic literature: free audio books, read by volunteers. And nearly all of the recordings we've listened to have been very nice. I love the variety of exotic accents that you hear, listening to different titles! We've listened to Pollyanna, Just David, a couple of Shakespeare plays, The Burgess Bird Book for Children, Children of Odin, By Pike and Dyke, quite a few retellings of Greek and Roman myths, the Declaration of Independence, Bastiat's essays, Pride and Prejudice... I don't even remember them all. The kids routinely ask me if they can use my old phone (Librivox has a mobile app) so they can re-listen to some of the great literature while they play. Uh... YES! Use my phone!


These are my favorite free resources, but they're hardly the only free things out there. You can click the button for more of the Homeschool Review Crew's favorite free links:

07 November 2017

Innovators Tribe: Thinking Like an Engineer {Crew Review}

Innovators Tribe

We were excited to receive the 2-year subscription to Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe for this review. The course is designed for kids in 6th to 12th grade, so Hero(11) is on the young end of the spectrum, but he was very interested in learning more about engineering.

When you log in, there's a lot of information right at your fingertips. There's a 4-page pdf syllabus that outlines what you can expect your student to learn during the course.

The supplies needed for the course are all common household items, except for a small carpenters' level, which is not expensive at all, and a great addition to the toolbox that we're helping Hero stock for when he leaves home. Other than that, it's paper, card stock, scissors, and tape: no hidden costs in supplies, which is great.

The user interface is intuitive and easy to navigate: your menu is in a sidebar on the left, and the class content is one the right. Each time you log in, it asks if you want to start with the slide you left off with.

The very first project turned out to be quite challenging for Hero -- and for me, once I started to help him. Part of this is that he misunderstood the directions -- and I didn't double check on him until after we had struggled with a much more difficult project. What we were doing was building a five foot tall tower, built from only 4 sheets of paper and a foot of masking tape. But he thought it was only an inch. Ouch. That's a big difference. We worked on this considerably longer than the 1 hour that it was scheduled to take. Note to self: I still need to keep a closer eye on the directions for "independent" work!

I'd budgeted 1-2 hours per week for this course, so the misunderstanding in the instructions kept us scratching our heads for a couple of weeks. He first tried a round tower, built from rolled papers. But with so little tape, they wouldn't stay together, much less stand up.

He tried a few other things, and then I started helping: I thought that triangles might work better than tubes, so he cut pages and folded them into various types and sizes of triangles. He's really been a trooper, and I feel a bit bad for not thinking to check the instructions a little bit sooner... oops. I guess that part's also going to be a learning experience! The triangles worked better than the tubes: we got a couple different towers over three feet. But in the end, they were too unstable to do with only 1 inch of tape helping us hold things together: it meant almost all our joints had no tape at all.

By this point, we'd spent a number of hours on the project, and the post it note that I put on the doorframe marking where the tower was supposed to reach seemed a little bit mocking, so I started searching online to see what kinds of resources there are for this kind of project -- because it still hadn't occurred to me to check the instructions. But I'm only slightly sorry, because there's been some good lessons in persistence, in resilience, and a whole lot of hard work that's gone into the project so far, and those are character lessons that far outweigh any "being behind" that I might be worrying about. Plus, with a generous 2-year subscription, I'm not sweating over if we'll be done before I have to pay for a renewal: it's ok if the project takes longer than anticipated. It's ok if my student needs to grow into the requirements of the course as he goes along, or takes a little longer than anticipated. There is room for exploration, should something be extra interesting, and still be able to finish. And, if you have multiple students using the course, it's ok if they don't work at exactly the same pace. They estimate that there is about 30 hours of course work, so we still have plenty of time to complete this before our subscription runs out, even if we have several projects that run long.

Once we make it into Unit 2, there's some design software that's included in the course, and instruction on how to use it to "get ideas out of your head". I'm looking forward to when we get to that point in the course; I think that Hero is going to love that aspect of things.

There's a great balance between hands-on projects, instruction on what engineering is, introduction to the tools of the trade, and examples from real life of feats of engineering and a whole section of units on "Grand Engineering Challenges of the World". Even the paper tower project that has taken us so long has a little bit of information about real-world engineering feats: the blue tower on the graphic is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world. He tells just a little bit about it as an introduction to the paper tower project.

A first condition of this vitalising teaching is that all the thought we offer to our children shall be living thought; no mere dry summaries of facts will do; given the vitalising idea, children will readily hang the mere facts upon the idea as upon a peg capable of sustaining all that it is needful to retain.
-Charlotte Mason 2:277

This course is full of the vitality and enthusiasm of the instructor, Mr. Kroeplin. And he does a great job of illuminating the relationship between the instructional work, the hands-on projects, and real life. Because of our misunderstanding of the instructions, Hero's not very far into the course yet, but I think it's going to remain something that he looks forward to seeing on his schedule each week all year as we work through it. 

Thinking Like an Engineer

To read more reviews of Thinking Like an Engineer, or to read about Thinking Like an Architect, and see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of these materials, click the banner below:


Crew Disclaimer

06 November 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack {Crew Review}

The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Thin Stix Creativity PackEarlier this year, back in May, we got to review the Thin Stix Classic 6 Pack, which we loved. So we were really excited to be able to review the Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc. I wish that I had a picture of Miss Kitty's face when I told her that we were getting All The Colors, because she was so excited. She may have been the most excited, but Hero(11) and Dragon(7) also used them, though I didn't remember to get pictures of all the projects that turned up in the past couple of weeks. We got several pictures, though.

We all had fun with these. I made a thing:

And Miss Kitty(4) copied my rainbow and made a thing of her own; I particularly like the clouds that she added, layering over the blue:

We found, this time, that sharpies and pens will write over the top of the paint, which opens up a number of mixed media options that bring things out of being "just" toddler art tools, and make them more appealing for bigger kids and grown-ups: you can do larger sections of your piece in marker, and then use other things on top of the paint, like my daughter did with this cute little heart that she made for me:

The Miss Kitty and Dragon both made a couple of little shapes for me. These were fun because they were sometimes experimenting with using multiple colors, and with the paints on colored papers, and we got some cool effects as the paints would mix and blend slightly, and as they interacted with the background colors on the paper.

Thin Stix are paint, but the kids still think of them as markers. Which is ok; I think that you'd have to work pretty hard to make a mess with these. We actually managed to use up one of the old ones, and they stayed mess-free, even when the kids pulled the screw-up end out of the marker itself to get the last little bit of paint out... and even then, they didn't make a mess. Which is why, when I found Miss Kitty using them in the living room on one of my couches, I wasn't too worried. I told her to take it to the table, but my furniture was just fine. Not too bad, for paint! We know from last time that they clean nicely off of hard surfaces like wooden chairs, even if they'd dried for a while.

 We had a great time with these, and discovered a couple of new things that you can do with them -- plus, having more colors is always more fun. They've remained very popular through the whole month or so that we had them for this review -- and the old pack, like I said, has stayed popular enough that one of the colors got used up completely. These are a great addition to our art box.

To read more reviews of the Thin Stix Creativity Pack, and see what kind of projects other members of the Homeschool Review Crew did, click the banner below:


Crew Disclaimer


Blog Widget by LinkWithin