Working It Out ~ Review

One subject that I enjoyed learning about in school was poetry. I enjoyed breaking down poems and trying to figure out what they meant. It was always an enjoyable experience, but something that took some effort. When AJ started to learn about poetry however, she hated it. She was a very literal thinker and the idea of nonsense poems was hard for her to understand. We worked on poetry for a while and eventually she started to enjoy it. She even wrote some decent poems of her own. Now that she is older, I have been trying to incorporate some poetry that has more meaning. It has been a little difficult to find the right balance for her.

We were recently given the chance to review a product from Everyday Education, LLC called Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert. I thought that it would be a great product to help AJ learn more about poetry.

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

What is Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert?

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

This book (we received an e-book) contains over 50 poems that were all written by George Herbert. He was a poet who was born in 1593. George Herbert lead a rather fascinating life even though he didn’t live to see his 40th birthday. He was a well educated man who ended up becoming an ordained minister.

Working it Out is a collection of poems that can be used as a devotion. The interesting thing about this book is that it is written in a way to help even those who are not poetically gifted to understand and enjoy the experience of reading poetry.

The poems in Working it Out are broken into 12 main categories.

  • Looking Back, Moving Forward
  • Letting Go
  • Confession
  • Grace
  • Separation
  • Petition
  • Praise
  • Depending on God
  • Grief
  • Prayer
  • Special Blessings of the Church
  • More Insights

The number of poems in each section varies, as does the length of each poem. Some are only a few stanzas long where others are pages long.

After each poem there is a breakdown of the poems meaning. I like how the breakdown lets you see the poem as much more than just words on a page. Each poem has the following explanation:

  • The Big Picture – This section gives an overall meaning of the poem.
  • The Parts of the Picture – This section breaks down the poem by stanza. Literary elements are discussed in this section.
  • The Parts of the Picture Come Together – This section explains the movement throughout the poem. I personally felt this was one of the most helpful sections.
  • Reflections – These are questions about the poem that ask you to reflect about the meaning of the poem.
  • Scriptures for Further Reflection – These are additional scripture verses that relate to the poem.

How to Use Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

You can simply read through the book and learn a lot of information. After reading each poem you learn about the meaning of it. Through this process you and your student will be able to grow in the knowledge of poetry while becoming closer to God.

If you want deepen the learning process there are ideas in the book to help take the learning to the next level.

You are encouraged not to rush through this book. It is actually meant to be used over a school year by learning about one poem a week. There is a lot of flexibility to help you make the process of learning about poetry enjoyable.

How We Used Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

Learn the meaning behind poetry while growing closer to God!

We started off by reading through a poem at the beginning of the week. Then the next day we would read it again and discuss what she thought the poem could mean. The process was difficult for AJ so we would read through the meaning of the poem a few times.

After learning about a few different poems I could see AJ was just not ready for this book. Instead we have decided to just read through a poem each week and talk about any literary elements she can find. I have also had her color code a few of the poems. She would highlight words that had to do with love red, and words that had a sad connotation grey.

It the poem, “The Flower” I had her mark the words about spring in yellow and the words about winter in a dark color. The poem is about renewal, and while she may not understand that yet, I know that the next time we come to this poem and try to understand its’ meaning it will be a little easier for her.

What We Thought About Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

It is a well put together study, but it ended up being too far over her head. She is in 8th grade right now and I think she will be able to get far more out of the study in another year or two. She is able to read the poems fine, but even when I help to explain their meanings, she seems a little lost. I look forward to using it with her in the future though, because it is a neat way to learn about poetry.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to teach their child about poetry. It breaks everything down and makes the process a lot easier. It is also great for personal growth and reading too. I have read through quite a few of the poems and have enjoyed them. The best part is I can see the meaning behind the poem and compare it to what I thought the poem was talking about.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say about Working it Out and two other products from Everyday Education, LLC

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
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If You Were Me And Lived In… Book Review

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While AJ is a reluctant reader, she loves books that teach her things. If she was able to only pick books out of the nonfiction section of the library, she would. But give her a text book and she normally finds it boring because of the lack of pictures. We were asked to review a few books from the, “If You Were Me and Lived in…” series brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com.  This review came with a fun twist, we were able to pick two books from the series and the company sent us two of their choice. It was a hard decision because there were so many great options. In the end AJ and I decided on, If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty and If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3). We picked the book about China, because we haven’t learned very much about that country in our history studies. We picked Elizabethan England because AJ will be reading her first Shakespeare play this year (YIKES!) and I wanted her to learn more about that era.

AJ’s first pick was If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2). She fell in love with Italy when she studied the Renaissance in 3rd grade. She was thrilled to see that the company decided to send us the book about the Renaissance! We also received If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4).

About the Books

The books all follow the same format. They begin with a picture of the country today and the country during the time period that the book is covering. The books cover all different things from the food that was eaten, the clothes that were worn, the types of homes, and other interesting information. Then at the end of each book there is a list of important people during the time including dates and detailed information. Following that there is a glossary in each book.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 55 pages long. It is illustrated by Silvia Brunetti. The pictures in the book varied. Some were lifelike, some looked more like paintings, and others looked like cartoons. We enjoyed the variety. It began by reviewing a little bit about the Middle Ages. It talked about the wealthy Medici family and how the family encouraged changes in architecture and supported many artists.

The book explained that girls were expected to be married by the time they were 16 and were expected to act like adults from a very young age. It also talked about how the clothes that were worn were a symbol of status in the town. In the end of the book there was a short section about art in the Renaissance. AJ was happy to see the Hands of God &Adam by Michelangelo in that section. That was one of the first pictures she ever saw in real life. I still remember when she was 9, we walked into a doctor’s office and a replica of it was hanging on the wall. She was so excited to see it and told everyone in the waiting room what it was and who painted it. Her only complaint about the book was that it needed to have more art in it. She learned a lot of new facts and was thrilled to remember things she had previously learned. This was her favorite of the books.

If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 50 pages long. It is beautifully illustrated by Paula Tabor. The pictures are lifelike and vivid. The book starts off by explaining why the time period was called the Elizabethan Period. Then it went on to explain what your life would be like if you lived in a bakery with your family. One of our favorite parts was learning where the expression, “it’s raining cats and dogs,” came from. We also learned that most people ate with their hands. Then we learned about the acting companies and how the boys had to play girls. The book ended by talking briefly about how the religion you were able to practice depended on who was leading the country.

We simply read through the book and learned quite a few new things. AJ loved that it was simple to read and full of both pictures and information. The important people section in the back of the book was really helpful. It let AJ easily learn more about the time period.

 If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 61 pages long. It is illustrated by Sarah Wright. While the pictures are colorful and cute to look at, they are cartoonish. Since we have learned about Colonial America a few times, I didn’t think that AJ would learn very much from it. I was wrong! The book starts off where volume 3 ended. It explained in a lot more detail about how the ruler of the country decided the religion in England, and how a lot of people were unhappy. Then it goes on to talk about the Mayflower Compact and how hard the first settlers had it. It explains how corn became a very important crop and how becoming allies with the Indians helped everyone. This book is full of information.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This is a long book. It is 76 pages long and the writing is quite a bit smaller than any of the other books. It is illustrated by Mateya Arkova. The pictures in this book look like they were painted in muted watercolors. AJ and I both felt that a lot of the pictures seemed blurry.

This book (and the Colonial America one as well) is told from a male perspective. The other two we have were told from the female perspective. It starts off by explaining that the Han Dynasty was a very important dynasty in China’s history. It also explains that it is often called the Golden Age of Ancient China.

We learned that the most important area in the home was the shine and that it was very important to the Confucianism religion. We also learned that clothing was important and that only the Emperor could wear the color yellow. One fact that AJ thought was amazing was that the process of making silk was so secretive that a person could be put to death if they told the secret.

There is so much more for AJ to learn in this book. She still isn’t finished with this one because I want her to take her time and really process the information.

The book covers so much! Some of the things she will be learning about are; the different social levels, the importance of honoring their family, their school life, the process of making paper, the three main religions, calligraphy, and a lot more.

What We Thought

All of the books were full of information. They are well written making an often boring subject interesting and easy to learn about. I feel that these books can be the basis of a period study for a child in elementary grades. You can easily add crafts and activities to make it a very fun study. They would be perfect for older children to review a subject or to go over the basics of a new topic. I admit that I learned a few new facts too.

If you are looking for a great book to learn about history, any of these would be a great pick.

Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
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Ultimate Phonics ~ Review

We have had a difficult time with AJ’s reading. She was reading at four years old and loving to learn. Then when she went to kindergarten we were told that the school was no longer teaching phonics. Instead they wanted the students to simply memorize words. And I am not talking about sight words, I mean she was expected to remember words that could be sounded out. She would even get in trouble for sounding out the words! It was a huge issue and it caused AJ to really hate reading. We have come a long way since then, but I still see her just guess at words she doesn’t know. She also struggles with spelling because she doesn’t know all of the phonetic rules.

I have been looking for something to help reinforce and improve AJ’s reading, but most of the programs I have come across seem too young for AJ. When we were given the chance to review the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning I was a little hesitant. I had AJ take their reading test and she missed seven words. The test stated if the child missed ten or more words they were missing advanced phonics decoding skills. I decided that using the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program could probably help AJ’s reading.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

What is the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program?

This program is quite different from any other phonics program we have used. It is computer based, but it is downloaded to your computer so you don’t need internet to use the program on a daily basis. It is not gamed based and it doesn’t have animated characters or bright colors. Instead it focusses only on phonics. The program is simple to use and can be used for the entire family. It has 262 lessons that teach different sounds and blends to help your child become a better reader.

The first lesson covers the alphabet and the basic sounds of the consonants. After the initial lesson, the rest of the lessons follow a pattern. Since AJ knows a lot of the basics we jumped to level 150 to start. It is recommended that everyone start at the beginning to make sure they don’t miss a concept, but I felt comfortable skipping ahead. We may go over some of the beginning lessons in the future.

Each lesson begins with  an Idea or Pattern. In this section of the lesson your child is introduced to a sound, a letter pattern (eigh, oll, ue, exc.), or a phonetic rule or idea. This is simply a page where the idea or pattern is explained. The child can read this information to their self or have the computer read it to them.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

The next part of the lesson is the Word List. In this section words that follow the pattern are listed. The number of words varies depending on the lesson. Your child can hear each word read to them by hovering over the word with the mouse. The child should read each word at this time.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

The third part of the lesson is the Words. There is a slide for each word on the word list. The child can hear the word, see it broken into syllables, and hear how each letter comes together to form the sound of the word.

spencer3

The final part of the lesson is the Sentence. There are a few sentences that the child should be able to read. The sentences are made up of words that the child has learned up to that point.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

Once the child has finished listening and reading each section they can move to the next lesson or repeat the lesson if needed.

How We Used the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

When I started to show AJ the program she didn’t like it. She thought that going over phonics was boring and for younger kids. Then I showed her how easy it was and she willingly gave it a try. The first lessons I had her do took five or ten minutes each. She went through each word quickly and then hurried to read the sentences. I made her slow down and not only read but spell each word so that she would remember what she was learning. I haven’t noticed an improvement in AJ’s reading yet, but I have noticed her looking at the words and thinking about them before guessing. I think we will continue with this program because it is well done. I think AJ would have liked to read if she had used a program like this.

What We Thought About the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

This program goes over so many different sound combinations. I think that anyone who goes through the program would become a strong reader. I like that it is easy to use. A child should easily be able to use the program with little assistance. I also appreciated the fact that the program is off line. When AJ was learning to read I would have been a lot more comfortable with her using an offline program than an online one. While the program is phonetically sound, there were a few things we didn’t care for.

  • No Interaction – The student could hover over a word or sound, but they weren’t required to do anything. AJ could easily skip to the end of a lesson without doing anything, and I wouldn’t know. I think this also gives the child a chance to just zone out.
  • Computerized Voice – AJ didn’t like the voice that read the words. She said it made her want to fall asleep. I didn’t think it was that bad, but I did think it was a little monotone.
  • Didn’t Know Where to Start – After taking the test to see if AJ could benefit from the test, I expected to be told a place where she should start. She thought the first lessons were way below her level, and they were, but I didn’t want to skip too much. It would be great if there was a way to know where to start older children.
  • Lack of Fun – With so many fun games and activities available, this program seems boring. I like that it focuses on learning, but if your child needs fun and excitement while they are learning, they may find this lacking.

Overall it is a great program. I learned a few things by clicking through the patterns. If you want a no nonsense way for your child to learn to read, this would be perfect. Even though it is computer based, parental involvement would be needed to make sure your child is staying on task and really reading the words correctly. The best part of this program is that there is a FREE trial. Try it out and see if it would be a good fit for your child.

Click the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say!

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
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CHSH Download Club ~ Review

AJ is a kid that enjoys doing worksheets, so I am often on the look out for things to supplement the topics we are learning about.  The problem is that since she is in 8th grade, a lot of  worksheets and unit studies that I find are too easy for her. Sometimes I make up my own worksheets for her to complete, but most of the time I just don’t have the time. We were recently given the opportunity to review the CHSH Download Club  from CHSH-Teach.com. When I first looked at the Christian HomeSchool Hub, I knew that it would be a resource that I would use frequently over the next year.

What is the CHSH Download Club?

I  had never heard of the CHSH Download Club before this review, but I wish I had. The CHSH Download Club is an online resource that gives you access to thousands of pages of educational materials. It includes worksheets, literature studies, full curriculum, supplemental materials, flash cards, puzzles, coloring pages, and more. For one small price of just $25 a year (or $99 for a lifetime membership) you have access to everything on the site. There are materials for grades preschool through high school.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
The site makes it easy to find exactly what you need. The materials are organized by; subject, grade, and month. I have to say that I was amazed at all of the different things available, and I was thrilled to see that there is an entire section for high school. It includes:

  • Literature Studies – Including Shakespeare
  • English Composition and Language Arts – 4 Years of High School English
  • Social Studies – Including a full World History and American History course
  • Math – Including a Collage Level Algebra Book and Answer Key
  • Science – Including Biology and Physics

AJ won’t be in high school until next year, but I looked over a lot of the high school resources and think we will probably use the World History and Biology courses next year.

How We Used the CHSH Download Club

We are studying modern history this year. We have been learning about different important people throughout history. I looked through our history curriculum and saw that AJ would soon be learning about Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers. So I looked to see if there was any information on either of the two topics. There was!

I quickly found three resources for Amelia Earhart under the Social Studies topic of “People throughout History.” There is a unit geared for 3rd through 6th grade and a unit geared for 4th through 8th grade. There is also an Amelia Earhart shape book. I decided to use both of the units about Amelia Earhart. The first one she did was the one geared for kids in 3rd through 6th grade. That one basically had her read about Amelia Earhart and then fill in charts and answer questions about the reading. I felt that study would have been perfect for the 3rd through 6th grade age range. After she finished with that unit she was going to start on the 4th through 8th grade unit. Unfortunately, when I clicked on that unit it said that the file was not found. I was a little disappointed about that.

This is just one of the many products from the CHSH Download Club!

 

The next unit study I had AJ work on was Wright Brothers: Bicycles to Airplane. It is an 85 page unit study that has 17 different tasks for the student to complete while learning about the Wright Brothers. It begins with pages of information about the Wright Brothers. There are a variety of different tasks including; creating a magazine cover about the Wright Brothers’ flight, making an anemometer, researching aviation, locating important places on a map, art projects, poems, giving a speech and more. AJ didn’t complete all of the tasks (we still have another week left) but, this unit study is great. It includes so many hands on activities to help students learn about flight. I was excited to see a study that was geared towards older students, and look forward to other studies in the future.

These graphic organizers make learning new concepts fun!

We also used various worksheets throughout the review period. AJ enjoyed the blank periodic table that she could fill in. She also liked the different charts and venn diagrams that were available in the Graphic Organizer download. There are 80 different ones to choose from.

We planned on using one of the literature studies for the novels that AJ is reading. There is a study for almost all of the books she is reading this year.  Even though the literature studies are for grades 4 through 8, I found them to be too simple and easy for AJ. They were mainly simple questions about the plot of the novel and didn’t ask any thought provoking questions. I think it may have been perfect for younger students, but not for the 8th grade level.

What We Thought About the CHSH Download Club

After trying out various products from the CHSH Download Club I think it is well worth the cost. There really is something for everyone. Almost all of the resources I looked at were well made and well thought out. I enjoyed how easy it was to use the site and how quickly the downloads came up. Other than the one file about Amelia Earhart, there were no glitches on the site.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
If you are looking for a way to supplement your child’s learning then the CHSH Download Club may be exactly what you are looking for. This would be perfect for those who enjoy unit studies or those who want to dig deeper into a concept. We have tried a few different sites over the years that have downloadable resources, and I think so far that this one is the best, especially if you have older students.

Find out what other members of the Review Crew had to say by clicking the graphic below.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
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8th Grade English

AJ will be starting 8th grade very soon, but it seems like she was just learning to read a few years ago. Reading and writing are the subjects that she struggles with the most. She has never been officially diagnosed with a learning problem, but I think she has a mild form of dysgraphia. She can make up stories and explain almost anything, but when she is asked to put it in writing, she struggles. AJ has improved quite a bit over the past few years.  This year we are taking a lighter approach with science, history, and Spanish. We are going to really dive into English and Math. Here are our curriculum choices for 8th Grade English.

Our 8th Grade English Plan

Reading

AJ doesn’t enjoy reading short stories, so we stick to novels. This year she will read a variety of books. Most of the books that I picked out are books that we already had. I have study guides for some of them and for others she will be working on literary elements using season 1 of Beyond the Book Report. We were blessed to review it last year, and it was a hit. The lessons are short but they force her to really think about the book. As of right now we won’t be studying poetry this year, but things could change.

Writing

Writing is a subject that I need to be involved in, so it often gets pushed to the side. This year we are making writing a priority! If you have a struggling writer, I highly recommend IEW. AJ likes to watch the lessons. I never thought that she would like a writing program, but I am thrilled that she is enjoying it. When Mr. Pudewa explains something she really seems to understand writing. AJ likes having a checklist to make sure her writing is the best that it can be. I have noticed that the more we use the program the more confidence she has in writing.

Spelling

We have tried a few different approaches to spelling the last few years. Spelling You See was a nice change of pace and Phonetic Zoo was a product that I thought AJ would love. This year I was trying to decide what to use for spelling. AJ ended up asking if we could go back to spelling lists and I thought it would be a great idea. I ended up finding a free 8th grade spelling book online. I had it printed and bound at Staples and it is ready to go for the new year.

Vocabulary

Most of the novel study guides have daily or weekly vocabulary work, but I don’t think it is enough for AJ. She needs a lot of practice so we are going to use a few different products for vocabulary. I found a vocabulary workbook at the same time as the spelling workbook. I decided to have it printed and bound at Staples as well.

Wordbuild Online is great but I wanted an option for those times when the computer doesn’t want to cooperate. We were blessed to review Once Upon a Time in Latin, so we will use it through the year.  I think that between all of those resources AJ will be able to vastly improve her vocabulary.

Grammar

We started Analytical Grammar last year. It is designed to be completed over three years. This year we will finish up the last few units from the first section and complete the second session. AJ doesn’t enjoy grammar, but she is learning. I have learned quite a bit as well. It is a very solid program.

I will be very hands on for AJ’s 8th grade English course this year. Most of the days have her working for an hour and a half to two hours, but I think that the skills she will gain this year will really help to prepare her for high school.

 

8th Grade Reading List

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As I sat down to write this post I realized that this will be my fourth year of homeschooling AJ on my own and the sixth year in total of schooling at home. Some days it seems like we just started on this journey, while other times it seems like we have been homeschooling forever. This year we are going to focus on English and Math quite a bit. It is the last year before high school and I want to make sure that she is ready.

When I started thinking about the books I wanted to read I thought of novels that I have book studies for, and novels that I really enjoyed reading as a teenager. I hope that she enjoys reading most of them, but she can be reluctant to read books that aren’t about animals or fascinating adventures. My plan is to help her find additional book series that she enjoys.

Here are the books on AJ’s 8th Grade Reading List.

Our 8th Grade Reading List

The first four will be completed using the Memoria Press Study Guides.

  1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  2. As You Like It – This will be our first attempt at Shakespeare. To make it easier we purchased a version of the book that has both the original text and a text that is easy to understand.
  3. Treasure Island
  4. The Wind in the Willows – AJ read part of this book last year but we put it aside to finish our study on Narnia.

She will complete a study guide from Classroom Complete Press for the next set of books.

  1. Bridge to Terabithia
  2. The Giver
  3. Holes
  4. The Whipping Boy

She will do book reports on the next set of books.

  1. Alice in Wonderland
  2. Through the Looking Glass
  3. Animal Farm (This is part of her History curriculum.)

It looks like we will have a fun filled year of reading. What books are you planning on reading this year?

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Book Study)

The middle of last year Home & School Mosaics, a website that I reviewed and wrote for, decided to shut down. One post that I wrote was part of the monthly book club. Since it is no longer available  on Home & School Mosaics, I’m sharing it here.

This month we are focusing on the book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater.  I will be sharing my thoughts on the book as well as activities to do for each chapter. There is also a downloadable study guide for the book.

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What was the book about?

The book was about a family man who was very unhappy with his job as a painter and decorator. His true passion would be exploring the world. One day he gets a surprise in the mail, a penguin from Antarctica. The penguin causes some minor funny issues but becomes a member of the family. Unfortunately, after a while, the penguin starts to get sick because he needs companionship. After another penguin arrives at the Popper’s home the first penguin starts to feel better, but then the family has to figure out how to keep two penguins happy. Trouble and craziness continue when Greta, the female penguin, lays 10 eggs. After a while, they are able to train the penguins and they become known as Popper’s Performing Penguins. Fun and excitement follow as the penguins go on the road to perform.

Mr. Popper's Penguins book study and study guide

Did the book fulfill your expectations?

Having watched the movie, I was expecting a totally different story. The movie was over the top and had us laughing all of the time. The book and movies share a few similarities, but overall the main storylines are very different. That being said, I think I liked the book a lot more than the movie. It was funny, exciting, and a great story. I really liked that it wasn’t a book that I could easily tell what was going to happen next.

Did the book end the way you expected?

No, the ending was totally unexpected. It was fitting of Mr. Popper’s character, but I was definitely surprised by his decision at the end.

 

How realistic was the characterization?

The characters themselves, and the way they interact with each other, are very realistic. The situation they were put in was obviously unrealistic, but their handling of the problems was realistic. My favorite – and least favorite – character was Mr. Popper. He loves his family, but has his heads in the clouds and doesn’t seem to take bills and responsibility seriously. He is kind of selfish and likes to keep to himself. His wife on the other hand was down to earth and a worry wart. She was very practical throughout most of the book. I could definitely relate to Mrs. Popper.

Would you recommend the book?

Absolutely! The book was full of comedy, with a few unexpected surprises thrown in. It is a simple read that I am sure would be enjoyed by all ages.

Activities

There are so many fun activities that you can do with this book! Doing a unit study on penguins would be a great idea. Embracing Home has an amazing penguin unit study. There are dozens of activities, games, videos, and printables to help you learn about penguins.

Below are a few ideas I have come up with that go with the book..

Chapters 1 and 2

  • Write a letter to Admiral Drake
  • On a map label the North and South Pole
  • Find Antarctica on the map and color it. You can find free printable maps at  Your Child Learns.com

Chapters 3 and 4

  • Label the parts of a penguin
  • Make a Penguin Fact bookmark

Chapters 5 and 6

  • Study penguin habitats
  • How many words can you make out of the word “PENGUIN”? ( downloadable worksheet) There are 40 possible words.

Chapters 7 and 8

  • Make a bird nest
  • Write a newspaper article about Captain Cook

Chapters 9 and 10

  • Draw a penguin

Chapters 11 and 12

Making fake snow is just one of the fun activities in the Mr. Popper's Penguins book study.

  • Make fake snow
  • Build a house out of ice cubes or sugar cubes

Chapters 13 and 14

  • Penguin money math (downloadable worksheet)

Chapters 15 and 16

  • Make a comic strip showing the penguin’s act

Chapters 17 and 18

  • On a map, color all of the states that the penguins visited
  • Research what seals eat

Chapters 19 and 20

  • Write a book report
  • Compare and contrast the book and the movie

We were able to find an instant snow kit at the store; we just added water. AJ had a blast playing with it. It isn’t quite like real snow, but it was close enough. If you don’t want to buy fake snow, you could also make one of the numerous recipes on Pinterest.

Scroll down to download the Mr. Popper’s Penguins study guide. It includes vocabulary and questions for each chapter. Most of the questions are simply plot based, so if your child is able to read the book I think they would be able to complete the study guide.

Craft

A Penguin Bookmark

Throughout the book there are a lot of penguin facts. Make this book mark to keep your place while reading, and jot down facts when you find them. It is very simple.

Supplies needed for the Penguin Bookmarks

Materials:

  • Card stock, or a file folder
  • 1 sheet of black, white, and yellow construction paper
  • googly eyes
  • glue
  • scissors
  • ruler

Instructions:

This penguin bookmark goes perfectly with the Mr. Popper's Penguins book study!

First, cut out a piece of card stock or file folder into a rectangle the size you want your penguin bookmark.

Then, glue that piece onto the black construction paper.

Glue googly eyes near the top.

Cut out a beak and two feet for your penguin. Glue them into place.

Next, cut a white oval out of the construction paper. Glue it on your penguin.

Finally, round the head of your penguin. It is finished!

Other Penguin Resources

AJ loves the Magic School Bus series, so whenever we do a unit study I search to see if Ms. Frizzle has a book or video related to what AJ is learning about. Thankfully there is a Magic School Bus Chapter Book about Penguins! Penguin Puzzle is the 8th book in the series, and it didn’t disappoint. AJ loves that she can go on an adventure and learn new things at the same time. If you haven’t checked out the chapter books, you need to. They have more details and facts spread throughout the book, but they are presented in an older way. They are about a third to fourth grade reading level, but AJ still loves to read them.

March of the Penguin is a good video that has breath taking shots of the emperor penguin.

Penguins Book for Kids –  This is a fact filled picture book all about penguins.

This American Girl Sew and Stuff Penguin Kit looks like a lot of fun. We haven’t tried the penguin one yet, but AJ enjoyed  a few other ones. Make sure you keep all of the pieces together or you might end up loosing a vital piece.

Mix your love of penguins with even more science. In this crystal growing kit your child can grow a penguin crystal. We have grown quite a few crystal animals and objects and they are always a great learning experiment.

I hope you enjoy this study of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It is free for my subscribers. If you already are a subscriber you will find this printable study in your email. Haven’t subscribed yet? Enter your email below to get access to this and all of my other subscriber only printables.


 

 

Orphs of the Woodlands – Review

AJ has a great dislike for reading. She loves math, science, and history, but don’t ask her to read. On the other hand, she loves games, if those games can have an element of math and science, then we usually have a winner. I love getting lost in a story and could get stuck in a good book for hours at a time, so I have been looking for a way to help AJ gain the love of reading that I have. Enter the latest product that we were blessed to review as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, Orphs of the Woodlands. Orphs of the Woodlands is an amazing product created by Star Toaster.

An amazing Online program that has sparked my child's love of reading!

We were given a year long access to the first book, The Treasure of High Tower. The normal subscription is for 60 days and is good for up to three children. There is also the option to extend the subscription for 30 days if your child hasn’t finished the program within the first 60 days. It is an online program so you will need a good internet connection, but you should be able to use it on any browser. We used both Internet Explorer and Chrome and had no issues at all.

What is Orphs of the Woodlands?

In very simple terms, it is a online book with learning and games intertwined. But it is really so much more! When you sign in to Orphs of the Woodland you are taken to a spy job application.  The WAK underground is looking for trustworthy spies to help save the Woodlands from the Night Creatures who are destroying the Woodlands.

This is where the fun begins! Your child gets to pick an alias for the main character in the book. The main character is male, so AJ decided that her squirrel would be named Tommy. Once your application is submitted you are taken to your journal. In your journal is a 15 chapter book told from your character’s perspective. (The book is over 350 pages)

Throughout the book there are interactive learning opportunities. Vocabulary words are highlighted and when you hover over them you are given the definition, or a list of synonyms. There are quotes and Latin phrases that are highlighted as well. When those are hovered over you are given the meaning of the phrase or more information about the quote. There are portions where sound clips are included and videos as well. It is so much more than a book!

The first chapter lays out the story. It tells all about the Night Creatures, Orphs (orphaned animals), gold stars (the currency of the Woodlands),  Ivythwaite, and High Tower.

After the first chapter, (and each other chapter you read) you have to complete jobs to earn gold stars so that you can take care of your Orphs. Jobs are based off of skills learned throughout the book.

Before each “job” there is a lesson on the topic. Some of the lessons are written pages for your child to read, and others are fun videos where Professor Forp teaches you a lesson. Professor Forp is a fun character who encourages you to seek out, “New Information Daily!”

The jobs you do vary with each chapter but they include:

  • Math– covering topics such as; place value, decimals, basic algebra concepts, lines and angles, mean, median, mode, circles, and more.
  • Science – covering numerous animal facts and a few other topics.
  • Language – covering Latin, basic grammar, homonyms, and more.
  • Vocabulary – covering numerous word families.
  • Thinking Skills – covering comprehension questions and memory skills.
  • Character – covering character skills and inspirational quotes.
  • Life Skills – full of wonderful recipes from the story.
  • The Arts – covering basic art subjects like; color, design, and tessellations.

In the beginning your child earns 6 gold stars for each correct answer on a job. As they get more correct answers they move to the next level and eventually earn more gold stars for each correct answer. The trick is that if you answer a question wrong, you don’t get paid, and you don’t have a way to earn those missed stars back again.

What are the Gold Stars For?

Star Toaster Review
That is where the game part of the program comes in. Using strategy you have to decide how to spend your gold stars to best take care of your Orphs. Which land should you purchase? Should you do projects to lower the cost of taking care of your Orphs, and if so which ones? You have to be careful because if you don’t have enough stars to take care of your Orphs, then they will leave and not come back!

 How did we use it?

This program is geared for kids in grades 4 through 7, but I really think it would be good for grades 4 and up. There isn’t a set way to use it, so I had AJ work on it throughout the week for as long as she wanted. Most days she completed a chapter and the jobs for the chapter, but with some of the longer chapters she only made it halfway through the reading and we would pick it up another day. Since she dislikes reading so much I decided to use the program with her and share the reading. The book was very interesting and I enjoyed it.

If you can’t or don’t want to read with your child that is okay too. There is a parent log in where you can find out how your child is doing on the lessons. You also will receive emails from Star Toaster updating you about what your child will be learning and their progress.

Working on Star Toaster - An Amazing online program for kids in grades 4-7

The program was very easy to navigate. AJ did most of it on her own. Using the menu at the top she was able to get to the book, her job list, and her timeline with ease.  We found everything self-explanatory and easy to understand. The best part is that there are helpful videos that explain every portion of the game if you can’t figure something out.

We also took the learning off line. There was a lesson about how to estimate the height of a tree that we tried and a lesson about PH and acidity that she did. I noticed that the lessons on homonyms helped her in her writing as well.

This is so much more than a book! We took the learning offline and explored some of the fun from the book!

 

What did we think?

We LOVED this program. It was the perfect fit for AJ! It has it all; an intriguing story where she is part of it, vocabulary words that are explained so she can understand what she is reading, fun bits of math and science sprinkled in, and a game where she gets to help others. She enjoyed trying to figure out who the good guys were and who was working with the Night Creatures. The story had  mystery and comedy while focusing on good character qualities and the value of knowledge.

She loved Professor Forp. He was funny and really explained subjects in an easy to understand way. I loved that the jobs she had to do forced her to really pay attention. At first I didn’t like that she couldn’t redo a problem if she missed it, but she only ended up missing 3 questions in all because she didn’t want to take a chance of not being able to care for her Orphs, so in actuality it was really a good thing!

AJ’s only complaint was that some of the chapters were too long. I agree that a few of the chapters were long, but I don’t think they could really be broken down any further to keep with the story.

After finishing the book AJ was actually upset! She didn’t want the program to end. The next book will be coming out soon and she really wants to read it. This program has sparked AJ’s love of reading. We finished the book, but she is reading it again because it was so much fun. When this kid willingly reads something a second time I think that speaks for its self. Star Toaster has a real winner with this product!

Star Toaster Review
If you have a reluctant reader, or a child who loves to read, you should checkout Orphs of the Woodlands ! The best part is that they are offering a free trial where you will be given access to the first 100 pages and the jobs that go with those pages. This program sparked my child’s love of reading and hope it will do the same for your child.

Star Toaster Review
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Reading Eggspress Review

Reading has been a difficult subject in our homeschool. I love to read and if I had more time I would more than likely spend it reading. AJ on the other hand has a strong dislike when it comes to reading. Ever since she was in second grade and was no longer “aloud” to sound out words, we have had a problem with reading. She likes to read easy books that are way below her reading level, but give her a long passage with no pictures and she will do one of two things. She will either pretend to read and then not be able to answer any questions, or she will take forever and by the time she is done she forgets half of what she reads. This year she is finally realizing that reading can be fun and she has started to even enjoy reading at times, but I was looking for something extra to help focus on her reading skills. Then we were given the opportunity to review Reading Eggs. At first I almost passed up the opportunity because I thought it was just for the younger set, but I was wrong. They have an entire section for kids ages 7 to 13 to help with reading and comprehension called Reading Eggspress.

Find out more about Reading Eggs:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Here is a little more about Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress:

Reading Eggs

Full of educationally sound, fun and interactive activities, Reading Eggs focuses on the most fundamental skill needed in school – reading. Children from 3 –7 years or older children struggling with reading will enjoy the huge variety of reading lessons, activities and games that make up the Reading Eggs program.

In addition to the 120 reading lessons in Reading Eggs there is the Reading Eggs World which caters for children who already know the basics of reading but who still have much to learn about reading, writing, spelling, and comprehension. In the Reading Eggs World, children have their own house to decorate, a big shop and an avatar that can walk and travel to many new destinations on Reggie’s bus. Children are able to choose their own adventure from a wide range of activities and places to go, including the following content:
 • The Story Factory – this gives children an introduction to creative writing and they can put together stories to enter in a weekly story writing competition.

• Driving Tests – has 15 sight word tests, 15 letters and sounds test and 15 content word tests. Children are rewarded for correct completion with a driving game.

• Puzzle Park – children can access 32 word puzzles and practice sight word recognition.

• Skills Bank – holds 96 spelling lessons that take students up to the end of key stage 1.

• Storylands – this area builds reading, vocabulary and comprehension skills and is perfect for children who have begun to read but aren’t quite ready for Reading Eggspress. It currently includes 20 e-books to read.

• The Arcade – includes 24 arcade-style games to be used as rewards to motivate children to keep learning. They need to earn Golden Eggs to play these so encourages them to work through lessons and educational activities before using the arcade.

Reading Eggspress

 Reading Eggspress continues the reading adventure by taking children to a brand new world designed for 7 – 13 year olds focusing on comprehension and grammar. Reading Eggspress provides a unique learning environment where students’ can improve their English language and comprehension skills in a way that is exciting and relevant.

The Reading Eggspress program uses a spinning island which instantly engages children. They explore a complete world with a wide variety of both learning and fun experiences. The range of activities motivate students to return regularly to complete lessons, compete against others, earn more rewards and improve their skills.

The Reading Eggspress website has an enormous range of learning resources, lessons, motivational games and e-books. There are 4 areas of the Reading Eggspress World:

 • Library – the Reading Eggspress Library holds more than 1500 e-books including illustrated chapter books, full-color nonfiction books and a range of classics. Children can search for books by topic, series, author, reading age or book title. New books are added regularly.

The Comprehension Gym – children complete a placement test when they first visit the Gym which places students at the correct level for their current ability. The Gym holds 200 interactive comprehension lessons over five broad levels from years 2 to years 6 with 40 lessons per year level.

The Stadium – children compete in real time against students from around the world. The exciting head-to-head contest tests skills in one of four areas – spelling, vocabulary, usage and grammar.

Apartment and Mall – children can use their golden eggs to buy avatar clothes and apartment furniture. Within the apartment all the trophies, medals and trading cards children have collected can be viewed and children can also complete a 100-level quest-style game to expand and refresh learning and earn more golden eggs.

Progress within the Reading Eggspress program is measured by the completion of targets. These are split over 4 levels and help give children some guidance and structure for learning and encourage them to use all of the above areas.

Both the Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress programs have a comprehensive reporting system that tracks progress so that students and their parents can clearly see each child’s achievements.

There are currently over 2 million children using the Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress program around the world and over 90% of parents surveyed have reported a noticeable improvement in their child’s reading skills.

Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress is a program that really works by making learning a fun, interactive and enjoyable experience for all involved.

How we used the Program
 

The problem I normally have with computer based learning is that AJ will spend most of her time playing with her avatar and looking at the things that she can buy rather than learning. Unfortunately that was also the case with Reading Eggspress. The times I had her go on the site independently I saw no progress. She changed her apartment and her outfits and “forgot” that she was suppose to try and earn eggs and complete lessons.

So while I would have liked her experience with the program to have been independent, that was not how it ended up working. I ended up sitting with her for every lesson. Once we got over that hurdle, our experience was a success!

Our goal each time she logged in was to complete a lesson and then complete a target mission. Missions included things like buying things, reading and reviewing books, and passing quizzes with 10 answers correct in a row. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of the lessons and missions. When she logged in to the comprehension gym it gave her a choice of 10 different books each was a different lesson. She clicked on the one she wanted to do and followed the directions. Each lesson was broken down into a few different activities.

Here is an example of a lesson for the book The Fine Line.
Cover Story
Using the picture on the cover, you answer questions regarding what the book will be about.
Dictionary
You pick 3 vocabulary words from a list, find each one in the dictionary, and answer questions about the part of speech and correct usage in a sentence. You also practice alphabetizing.
Pictures have Feelings Too
Using pictures from the story, you answer questions about characters’ feelings.
 
Key Words
 Match vocabulary words to their definition to unlock locks.
 
Who, What, Where, and When
You practice telling the who, what, when, and where with a simple sentence. Then you answer the same questions regarding a small section of the text.
  
Reading
You read a few pages of the story.
 
Quiz
You answer 16 questions about the reading, vocabulary, and basic grammar skills
 
 
What I liked
 
I like how there are so many different skills practiced in each lesson. I like how although some of the lessons are similar, there is enough variety to keep AJ interested. I was also pleased with the fact that even though they are using the computer, they are made to look up the vocabulary words using a pretend dictionary on the screen. I feel that a lot of the questions forced AJ to read closer. Having the avatar motivated AJ to earn more eggs so that she could buy more things. The library section was full of books on numerous topics. A few times I had her search for books on topics we were learning about and almost every subject had at least one book that she could read. The best part was that AJ wanted to go on the site every day. Every morning she would say, “I need to do my Reading Eggspress.” I honestly feel that working with this program has improved her reading.
 
 

What I didn’t like

 
Although I liked the program overall, I found a few issues that I feel worth mentioning. I found the language in a few of the books very questionable. In fact in the book The Fine Line the words idiot, stupid, and jerk are all used on just the few pages that are read for the lesson. I personally don’t want my child to be reading that type of language and now wonder if I will have to preread lessons before she completes them.  I also found some of the quiz questions confusing and poorly worded. The biggest issue I had was that the way it is set up, it is quite easy for the child to just guess and not read. If they get a question wrong the same question pops up later. There is also no explanation as to why the answer is wrong so instead of learning from the mistake the child is just expected to pick the correct answer the next time.
 
 
 
While I listed a few negatives I think we will continue with the program for a while and see how it goes. Here is the good news……. you can get a FREE 5 week trial to see for yourself if the program is right for your family. Use this link www.readingeggs.com/create  to start your 5 week free trial.  While you are looking into the free trial, you can also check out the fundraiser that is going on from February 3rd to March 7th to help raise funds for The National Children’s Cancer Society.
  *NCCS will earn a minimum of $25,000 from Reading Eggs plus 100% of the donations collected by RTCC participants
 
Prices vary based on the length of your subscription. Click here to learn more about pricing options.


Read other team member reviews by clicking the graphic below.

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/giving-love-with-the-gift-of-reading-reading-eggs-review/