Sunday, April 26, 2015

Percy Jackson's Last Book - The Blood of Olympus - Kind of Disappointed

As I have mentioned many times before - we love Greek Mythology and The Percy Jackson Series. In fact, The Percy Jackson Series is what ignited our love of Greek Mythology. We started reading the first series when Grace was about nine and continued with it until it was finished. We were thrilled when we learned a second series (The Heroes of Olympus) would be another five books we could look forward to. One out each year. The first four we again read together aloud. This go around Grace read it first for a book report and couldn't get but about three quarters of the way through it before just walking away and not finishing it. I then picked it up and was determined to finish it on my own. Much enjoyment was always had by these books, but, and I'm sure you saw this coming, there was one item  in the fourth book that didn't set well with me.
*Spoiler Alert*
The fifth and final book was a real disappoint to me. I finished it only because I wanted to know what happened at the end. Percy and Annabeth seemed to be afterthoughts in this book. Only a handful of chapters in the whole book related to them. Don't get me wrong I did like all the characters introduced in this series, but Percy and Annabeth where the glue to this entire series and I felt it was a disservice to not include them more. All five books led up to what one would think would be an epic battle with Gaea only to have her destroyed in less than a paragraph or two. The ending had everyone finding their "happy ending", but Leo and Calypso's reunion was very short and actually ended the book with almost like a cliff hanger of where they were going, but we all know this was the last book because the author is moving on to Norse Mythology with a new series to come out this fall. One last point I would like to make is the fact that the entire book seemed disjointed with all the characters spread out completing different tasks until meeting back up at the very end. It was like the author was trying to throw in every Greek mythological character he could to tie things up.
Anyway, I will get off my soap box now and just say for the most part I love everything that Rick Riordan writes. This one just didn't resonate with me. Other Percy Jackson fans may love it and that's okay, because we all have different opinions. All opinions in the post are my own and I bought this book myself.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Living in Neverland

My title to this blog post really says it all. For the past four months my family and the 35 kids in the picture above have lived, eaten, and breathed the show Peter Pan Jr.  This is truly the best group of kids. I will miss them terribly over the summer break.

We worked together one day a week for 1 hour and 15 minutes until we got closer to performances dates and then amped it up to a few three hours practices. What they were able to create was really breathtaking. It is always so much fun to watch the students blossom into their characters and see the creation of a story take place on stage for the audience.

As always we will be singing the songs for a couple of weeks until the they start to fade away and different lines will be brought up for appropriate situations. (We still do this with all the plays from the past)
I try  to let the kids be a part of the process of producing a show as much as possible. This go around students helped with backstage and setting scenes, lighting, construction and deconstruction of the stage, painting the backdrop, and creating props.

I also have a lot of help. Women and men that devote countless hours to sound, lighting, stage construction, advice, sewing costumes, selling concessions, videography, photography, and so much more. We even had edible pixie dust for sale.

I love watching these kids grow up and go from extras and smaller parts into leading roles. I had a handful of newbies this semester that had never performed in their lives on stage and I am so proud of what they were able to accomplish.

I will be so sad when a few age out of the program this year and next year.

Our Cooperative continues to grow and bring so many wonderful families!

Peter Pan Jr. was so much fun to direct and perform!

Two performances just didn't seem like it was enough!

This is one of my favorite pictures of the fairies so far!

Chief Tiger Bamboo in all his glory!

Thank you so much to all who were involved! I wish I could take credit for the above photos but one of the parents (Nerissa) was gracious enough to send me some and allow me to use them on the blog. You see it is quite hard for the director to take pictures during the performance. I am to focused on following along in the book to prompt actors if needed. Luckily no one needed prompting for either performance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Project Based Learning - Birds Edition

I am a huge fan of project based learning and try to use it when we can in our days as much as possible. This year for science the girls have used the Jeannie Fulbright book about flying creatures. I knew that once the weather became warmer and just better all the way around it would be time for a project. I will go into this project further in a future post once the bird sanctuary is completed.
Today was beautiful and was just shouting at us to get outside. When I looked out the window I saw a flock of gold finches, which happen to be my very favorite bird, about 16 in total. Also sighted were cardinals, indigo buntings, black capped chickadees, and purple finches. We all went out and set on the porch steps to get a better look.

After about 15 minutes of watching the birds come and go the girls decided they wanted to sketch the birds and then paint them with watercolors into their nature journals. We had other subjects that needed to be tended to, but when creativity and learning are working on their own I love just letting it work its magic. When kids get excited about something and come up with ideas of what to do - that is what true education should be about.

Warm sun on our faces and the wind blowing a pleasant breeze. You just can't get any better than that.
After about 30 minutes of watching, sketching, and looking through the field guides we headed inside to do some water coloring. It was a good day.

Monday, April 20, 2015

STEM Challenge Monday

Well it is Monday again and usually we try to do some type of fun STEM challenge. What do you do with 120 pennies, 50 gum drops, 100 toothpicks, and a paper plate?
I got the idea from my Pinterest board and a website I am now following about how to build teamwork. This challenge asked the girls to create a bridge out of the gum drops and toothpicks that could hold 300 grams of pennies which equaled to about 120 pennies. The kicker was the bridge had to be suspended over a 6 inch gorge.

Their creation barely help up the pennies. Not sure if it was the design of the bridge or the curvature of the chairs. Unfortunately all the desks and table in our room were on different levels, so we couldn't use them for the gap. I did explain to the girls that I thought their design needed a little more structure and height. They of course were anticipating eating the gum drops and didn't really want to recreate another bridge.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

TOS Review - The Elements of Art and Composition from ARTistic Pursuits

ARTistic Pursuits Review
Many of my readers know that we are an art family. My daughter and husband are both artists and we teach art classes in our fine arts Cooperative. In the past couple of years I have had the wonderful opportunity to review products from ARTistic Pursuits, but those have always been on the high school level. This go around I was blessed with the opportunity to review something on the elementary level, Elementary 4-5, Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition with my three 5th grade tutoring students. They loved the idea of implementing art every day for the review process.
ARTistic Pursuits Review
The Elements of Art and Composition book is comprised of 16 lessons and the book has a total of 92 pages. We received a spiral bound book for the review. The first ten lessons revolve around the elements of art while the last six deal with composition. In the getting started section the parent will find an art supply list, an overview of how each lesson works, and what the parents and students need to know before beginning the art lessons. A table of contents and samples of the lessons can be found on the main page of Elements of Art and Composition.

Our supplies for the first few lessons of the book consisted of: ebony pencils, sketch pad, vinyl eraser, and a metal pencil sharpner.

There are four main sections to each unit: Building a Visual Vocabulary, American Art Appreciation and History, Techniques, and Application. I would highly recommend looking at the sample pages mentioned above to get a better look.

We used this for Art Monday - Wednesday each week. I would estimate that each lesson took us 20 - 45 minutes depending on how interested the girls were on each day. I have two girls who love to draw and a third who is gaining more and more interest in drawing as we have progressed throughout the year. I sat down with the girls to read and instruct each lesson, but this book is written directly to the child and could easily be used independently. During the review period the main sections we were able to cover dealt with space, line and shape, texture, and value.

The girls enjoyed most the drawing activities. I loved the art appreciation and history and the way it was weaved into each drawing lesson. I love Charlotte Mason methods and appreciated getting to study full color paintings by American artists throughout each unit.


 In the back of the book the parent will find an evaluation sheet. There are instructions on how to evaluate the artwork and give a grade if desired.

ARTistic Pursuits is a very well known and trusted company that has been involved in the homeschool community since 1999. They have products available for all ages - Kindergarten through high school. Check out all the products available and start creating. You also might enjoy reading other Crew Members thoughts about the products they reviewed.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Recital Night 2015

This semester's recital night was last night at Faith Christian Academy. We have developed strong ties with this school and they have been so gracious and allowing us to be there and literally take over the gym for three weeks for stage construction, extra practices, and performances.
This year Grace was involved with Girls Ensemble and Ballroom Dance. She absolutely loved both of these classes. This is really saying a lot because it took two years for her to finally make the decision to join both classes.

She has enjoyed so much bonding with the girls in Girls Ensemble but also singing again. Grace has a beautiful voice (of course I'm mom and biased) and over the past couple of years she had stepped away from singing in performances. A few weeks ago she even did a duet in the school's variety show.

Who would have ever known how much a group of teenagers would love Ballroom Dance. This class started out with only 12 members with now around 24. We normally only held the Ballroom class in the Spring to get all the students ready for the Spring Formal, but this year the kids begged to continue. I have new students waiting to get involved in this class as well. Last night the kids performed the Cha Cha and Foxtrot and they already know the Waltz. Next semester will be the Swing and another dance style.
I always enjoy Recital Night so much because quite frankly I love these kids and their families. It is like a big family reunion when we all get together. We have to turn off the lights to get people to leave at the end because we enjoy each others company so much. We truly love each other. That is why I put in the long hours directing this Cooperative - The KIDS and the FAMILIES!
Next on tap - two Peter Pan performances next week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TOS Review - Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands

Star Toaster Review
As a homeschooling parent, have you ever wished for an educational product/tool that could be used for almost every subject you need to teach to your child? Kind of like the magic pill that covers all the illnesses. Well, I think Orphs of the Woodlands from Star Toaster just might be that magic pill in the educational world. We had the outstanding opportunity for all three of my fifth grade tutoring students to use this phenomenal product.
Star Toaster Review
Orphs of the Woodlands is a book that your child will read online to go on an exciting adventure, but there is so much more to this product. There are activities galore (called jobs) and a fun game that is weaved throughout the child's reading experience.
Each child/student will have their own login and account to work at their own pace. The parents have a separate login to keep track of all progress. Here parents can preview everything the child will see on their account. The lessons (activities/jobs), book, and game. Progress reports are also emailed to the parents.
As I mentioned before I had three fifth grade girls using the program and they are all on different reading levels. At this point in the review one student is on page 262 with 141 jobs completed, another on page 247 with 121 jobs accomplished, and a third on page 301 with 108 jobs completed. They have worked most weeks anywhere from 3-5 days a week for 30 minutes each time. I counted this toward their independent reading and language arts. Although the jobs/activities come from all sorts of categories, like; math, science, language, vocabulary, thinking skills, character, life skills, and the arts.
Star Toaster Review
Each activity or job that is accomplished provides the child with gold coins. These gold coins are used to support the Orphs. Orphs are the orphaned creatures of the woodlands that you care for by housing and feeding them. This is considered the fun game portion. Here the child spends her gold coins on items such as food, clothing, land, medicine, water, weapons for defense, and projects to provide energy. If the Orphs are not properly cared for they will disappear and you can't get them back.
Star Toaster Review
The book itself is about a squirrel (that your child can name) that becomes a spy to fight against creatures in the woodlands that are terrifying the Orphs. The squirrel character (your child) becomes the caretaker of the Orphs and learns many skills along the way. As your child reads through the book you will notice some interesting add-ons. Vocabulary words can be hovered over to show synonyms of the words to help understand them better. Letters will pop up with top secret messages. Sound effects and music will enhance the story in certain areas of the book. There is so much going on in this online book it would be impossible for me to write about all of it. Orphs of the Woodlands is 15 chapters of excitement, adventure, knowledge, and fun.
I was lucky enough to have two laptops and a notebook available so that my three students could work on this at the same time. I truly cannot say enough about this product. The girls loved it and never fought me about sitting down to work on it. We also never had any trouble navigating the website. I could get the girls logged in and then they could do it all on their own. Orphs of the Woodlands is a very unique, fun, and affordable way for your child to be educated. I would definitely purchase from Star Toaster again and that's exactly what we will do when Book 2 becomes available.

There is a free trial available that many parents will appreciate. Each subscription is good for 60 days, but if your child doesn't finish in the allotted time the parent can also purchase a 30 day extension. Believe me when I say Star Toaster has really thought through everything with this product.

Run, don't walk (over the Internet that is) and subscribe to Orphs of the Woodlands so that your child can start experiencing the same wonderment and fun. Also be sure to click over and see what other Crew Members thought of this awesome educational tool.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Famous Quote Notebook

Each week I write a famous quote on the white board along with a picture and a little information about the person who said it. I wish I had thought about starting this at the beginning of the year, but I didn't and only started it about 6-8 weeks ago. It is a great jumping off point to learn about so many different people and events from history.
So far we have had quotes from Ronald Reagan, Helen Keller, Robert Louis Stevenson, Vincent Van Gogh, Eleanor Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington, and more. In the beginning I was doing one a day Monday - Wednesday, but felt that was a little overwhelming. Now I introduce the girls to one a week. This way they have time to mull over the quote and information that I give them about the author of said quote.
I wish I could say that I came up with this idea on my own, but as usual I implemented it after reading this from one of my favorite online bloggers Teachable Moments. I couldn't find the exact link for you. She does something very similar only her girls are a little older the mine and they write out some information about the person in their notebooks as well.
Today I got all my old scrapbook supplies and let the girls go to town making their own beautiful creation out of the notebook of quotes they have collected so far. I think I will keep the notebooks until August when they return and continue on with it throughout the next year. It is always a great icebreaker each morning as they come in before starting into the day's work.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

When Your Child Needs More Than You Can Give

Many years ago when I was in high school, what was required to graduate and go to college was so different to today. In high school I didn't get past biology in science and in math I did a lot of consumer math, business math, and general math. My almost two years of college got me past Algebra and another two quarters of biology. I have never studied chemistry or geometry. Next year will be Grace's 11th grade year and she is slated to take both of these courses. We discussed it and came up with a plan of doing both at home with Teaching Textbooks, Queen Homeschool, and Chemistry 101 DVDS. The more I thought about this plan the more I fretted about it. I would have to learn both of these subjects with her in order to help her when she had trouble along with running a Fine Arts Cooperative and tutoring three 6th graders next year. I just felt it was time to farm these two subjects out.

Math and Science have always been our weak spots. Even Grace has expressed the desire to have another teacher for these two subjects. After much discussion we have decided to do just that. Luckily the private Christian school that we rent space from for the Cooperative has started a new program to begin in August to help homeschooling families in this area. They are now offering hybrid courses (meeting two days a week at the school and twice a month for tests) for all core subject areas. Grace jumped at the chance to participate in a small classroom setting and learn from another teacher (who actually has expertise in chemistry and geometry). This feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Grace is also slated to participate on the girl's volleyball team and she is extremely excited about it.

Grace will continue to take writing and literature from her beloved teacher Ms. Christy at the Creative Canvas. Looking forward to a great, but very busy year in the fall.

Grace's school house for the past 8 years will now be changing a bit.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Evolution of a Stage

If you had asked me five years ago if this would be my life, I probably would have laughed. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be running a Cooperative and certainly not getting ready to direct a big musical and get a stage built.

Many man hours have gone into creating something great the kids can enjoy and use for Recital Night and the Peter Pan performances.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for the Bean Family, Thomas Family, Laws Family, and my hubby. Saturday found a three of the men constructing a stage 9:00 in the morning until 11:00 that evening. We were back at it again this morning.

Tomorrow we actually get to practice on a stage. The kids are going to love it.

One week until Recital night and two and half weeks until Peter Pan performances. This went so smoothly I feel like I can breathe again. Hoping for a wonderful practice tomorrow and Friday.

Friday, April 3, 2015

When Your Brain Hits That Proverbial Wall

The end of each semester is usually crazy for us. Trying to get everything with the Cooperative tied up with a pretty bow can be time consuming, mind boggling, and just plain exhausting. This year added to my plate is directing the spring musical. This is something completely new to me (in the past I have always run sound, etc) and sometimes I feel like I am failing miserably at it.

Yesterday at practice we were blocking the last 20 - 25 pages of Peter Pan. I got about halfway through it and my brain just stopped functioning. I couldn't remember what I had visualized for a certain part and hit a brick wall. That means 35 high school students standing over my shoulder waiting for me to get it together. My co-director recommended starting over and watching the flow of the scene again and it would come back to me. It did pretty much come back to me but still I felt like a failure. Trying to direct so many moving pieces at once sent me into a tail spin and my brain hit the proverbial wall. This is not something that comes naturally to me.

I am full to the brim with information in my brain and simply cannot add anything else at the moment. I have multiple plates in the air all spinning and something is bound to fall and shatter. I'm just hoping it won't be Peter Pan. In the following three weeks we have to build a stage, get lighting and sound figured out in a new location, multiple rehearsals, recital night for everything else we do at the Cooperative (art show, choirs, puppets, ballroom dance, and elementary drama), two Peter Pan performances, get the stage back down and put always until the fall semester, spring formal, parent packet information to the parents for fall class registration, continue homeschooling my own daughter, tutoring three 5th graders, review products for The Crew, and simply running a household.

Believe me when I say I am not complaining, because I love the Cooperative and everything it entails. I'm just hoping that I can keep going and finish strong. Prayers would be so much appreciated to finish the semester strong and let the students shine like they always do, not for their own glory but to show the community what God can do when he brings families together, working together to create something special.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Creativity Abounds

Mermaid's Treasure Chest
I just wanted to brag on some of our high school art students from the Cooperative. Each student was given a small brown paper bag with the same items in it. Their job was to create something using those items and they could add to it as well from their own stash of supplies. What they all came up with was just plain amazing.


Birthday Celebration

Tire Swing

Bird house

Water Wheel


My husband who is the teacher of this class has taken all the entries to some artist friends to judge the most creative who will win a gift card. I will definitely post the winner when I know.