Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Product Review: Moving Beyond The Page

When you shop for homeschooling curriculum (which is on my mind right now since it is summer) do you ever wish that you could just buy one item and have everything you would need to complete the course?

Well I was given exactly that to review from Moving Beyond the Page. I received two units from them; the science unit Work, Tools, and Simple Machines; and a language art unit on the book A Single Shard.

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What It Is:

First off, what is Moving Beyond the Page? Well to put it in a nutshell, it is a complete homeschool curriculum. This creative, hands-on approach is perfect for those textile learners and gifted students who thrive when their education goes beyond a textbook. Within each year of study are four concepts (for example: matter and movement, or similarities or differences). And within each concept are three units; which include science, social studies (history), and literature. You can choose to use Moving Beyond the Page as your main curriculum and go through each year, or you can supplement your own curriculum choices with individual units. You can read more about how to use this resource as a main curriculum on their website. Each unit takes between 2 and 3 weeks to complete; to see all the individual units by age, click here.

Work, Tools, and Simple Machines, which is meant for ages 8-10, is divided into 7 lessons; these include:
  • Work
  • The Six Simple Machines
  • The Incline Plane
  • The Screw and the Wedge
  • Lever, Pulley, and Wheel and Axle
  • Tools and Machines Make Work Easier
  • Tools and Machines Over Time
Each of the above lessons is divided into days, so there is no confusion as to the schedule. Each lesson includes activities and experiments, discussion ideas, thought questions, with the answers conveniently given, and applicable worksheets. With this science package we also received Science In a Nutshell: Plane and Simple. This gave the hands-on aspect to this curriculum and included everything we needed for the experiments.

A Single Shard is a literature unit, meant for ages 11-13. I received the online version, which is accessible on the website. The online version comes with lessons, student activity pages, reading and question pages, vocabulary lists, and a review sheet. You can conveniently choose to either print out the pages or, type them into fields and then print the worksheets. Throughout the online program are helpful website and Adobe links that can be used for further study.

What You Get:

The units vary in price. The science unit, Work, Tools, and Simple Machines is sold for $61.99. The book is laid out in an organized way; with the teacher's guide and worksheets in order by lesson. The bulk of the cost is the Science In A Nutshell box which contains an incline plane, a screw eye, washers, wooden shapes, a spring scale, clay, and much more. There is an Activity Guide, which has experiment instructions for the parent, and three Activity Journals for the students to fill in.

The Single Shard Language Arts Package, which comes with the online curriculum guide and a physical copy of the book, is $19.92. The online guide has everything you need, including a Handy Guide to Writing and Grammar, a Summary of Skills, and a How To Page. You can see sample pages of the online version here.

How We Use This:

First off, the science unit. This I deliberately chose between Dasher and Nutsy's age range, with the intent of using it with both of them. Each day the three of us sat down and followed the lesson plan. Had Nutsy been a bit older and writing better, I would have bought her a guide to fill in as well, which you can purchase for $16.99 on their website. Using suggestions from the guide we would discuss the activity, and then follow the instructions to do the experiments. I found the length of the daily lessons to be perfect for their ages; we spent 20-45 minutes a day on this unit. The Science In A Nutshell really had almost everything we needed in it; I only had to produce things we had around the house like a toy car, glue, tape, a bar of soap, and scissors.

As an overview of the six simple machines, they cut out all these everyday tools and machines, then organized them by type.

A cassette tape, which in case you were wondering, is a wheel and axle.

All the different screw machines...if you look hard you'll find one that doesn't belong. :-)

We used the lever and triangular piece to make a wedge, and then raced things down it and compared the angle of the lever to distance the object traveled.

The worksheets were one page long and had age appropriate questions.

 We took a couple of extra days to do a few of the lessons and finished the course up in about three and a half weeks. ( The suggested schedule would take you 14 days to complete.) Each unit has a final project, and this particular one was to give a presentation to an audience about simple machines. Dasher created a poster board with the six different machines she learned about and then gave a verbal overview of each machine and demonstrated how each worked.

The Literature unit, A Single Shard, I gave to Bookworm to do.

The online guide suggests reading a couple of chapters and then doing the lesson, but I know she sat up the first night and read the whole book. The book is a wonderful story about a poor Korean boy who dreams of working with pottery and becomes an apprentice to a great potter. Through the story there are strong character traits that emerge; faithfulness, hard work, and honesty are prevalent. I gave this to her to work on independently. Each day she logged onto the website and read the overview and completed the activities. She chose to print out the worksheets and fill them in herself. Her final project was to write an essay comparing and contrasting the apprentice and the master potter. She completed this unit in three weeks.

What We Thought:

In the Work, Tools, and Simple Machines unit I really appreciated that all the tools I needed to complete the experiments were in the science box. That, with the daily schedule, streamlined this unit and made it super easy to teach. There were a couple of suggested experiments that I had a hard time understanding (a photo or illustration would have been helpful), but after reading it through a few times I got the idea. The hands down, favorite experiment was The Whipping Cream Experiment, where we used a fork, whisk, and electric mixer to whip up different bowls of cream. We had a hypothesis, results, and a conclusion, and decided which method produced the thickest cream. (The mixer, of course.) I feel that both girls came away with a better understanding about machines and how much we use them every day. The projects were very age appropriate and gave a hands on way to learn about science.

Bookworm loved reading A Simple Shard. She enjoyed the literature guide; although at times she felt it was a bit tedious. This unit has a focus on pronoun and antecedents and has many grammatical exercises enforcing the concept. There were fun activities interspersed; including a kimchi recipe, mapwork, and places for creative drawing. I really appreciated the depth of the essay in the final project. There was an essay rubric, or checklist, which was extremely helpful. The activity pages also included an essay organizer, and a convenient page listing editing symbols and abbreviations. This unit also had an end of the book test, which help me as the teacher judge how much of the unit she had grasped.

I really liked these units. The whole program is very flexible; you can purchase an entire year of curriculum, or each unit separately. Doing the program as a whole is very appealing, as each unit is interconnected with other units within the main concept. And Moving Beyond the Page is your one stop shop for everything, as packages can be purchased with all literature books and supplement materials included. On the website you can shop by age, or by subject.

Other members of the Crew reviewed many other literature, social studies, and science units. check out what they thought by clicking below.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That not much is going on right now, but things will be getting a little busy in the next couple of weeks. We have the 4th of July holiday and then our State Fair is the following week. We might be able to get some fundraising in for our Avian Bowl team which would be great, but it would make that week a busy one.

What I'm reading: After some encouragement from a couple of friends on Facebook, I am reading Pride and Prejudice. I hate to say it that I am not a big Jane Austen fan (gasp!) but we will see how this book goes.

What I'm listening to: I have the window open and I am listening to the rain pattering outside. We are having some weird weather system coming through so we have rain today and tomorrow, and then it is back into the 90's.

What we're learning: Our last week of school! The older ones have a few things to wrap up which will take them a couple of weeks into July but we are almost done. And let me tell you, I am ready for the break.

What's cooking: Some of the dishes I am making this week are Eggplant Parmesan, Chipotle Lime Roasted Chicken, and my experiment for the week is Grilled Chicken Mojito Sandwiches.

What I'm buying: I am planning to work on my family scrapbooking (I am only up to November 2007), and I have run out of those little sticky squares to mount paper and photos.

What I'm thankful for: I am so thankful for all the friends God has blessed me with. Each of them bring such lovely qualities in so many different ways and I am so grateful for the grace they bring into my life.

What I'm planning: I have a review to write this week about a cool science and literature resource. Plus, I have lots of photo editing to do too.

What we did this last weekend: We had a lovely time on Saturday catching up with our friends who are visiting from North Carolina. We went to a lake and the kids played while we talked the day away. Sunday we were at church and then headed to the park for our first church picnic of the year. There was a massive softball game and the kids all played Ultimate Frisbee and of course, volleyball.

What I'm looking forward to: I an NOT looking forward to my dental visit later today.... but I am looking forward to a fun wine tasting outing this Saturday with friends. Aside from that we have a pretty quiet week as we finish up school.

Pictures to share:

I know the other adults are going to kill me, but I have to show these photos, of our friends and us, through the years.




Friday, June 21, 2013

Thoughts On Summer

Today is the first day of summer. We still have two more weeks of school and then we will finally be on vacation.

As I read through different blog post this last week, I was impressed with the organization and plans people make for their kids in the summer.

Cousin's Camp, art days, fun field trips, summer cooking classes, movie nights, hikes, vacations, summer reading programs, play dates, park days, mystery meal nights, water games, obstacle courses.....the list goes on forever.

One mom-blogger I read has each week planned out, down to the day....a craft to get things going in the morning, something nutritious, hands- on, and fun planned each day for lunch, an hour of reading in the afternoon, and outside lawn games each night after dinner. She has day trips planned once a week, play dates with friends, museum trips, and nighttime stuff all planned out; like 'smores, flashlight games, night walks, and sleepovers.

Good for her.

Is that kind of stuff happening around here?

No way.

And why?

I am just plain tuckered out.

I'm not in a depressed or overwhelmed state by any means, but I have been planning and leading and teaching and directing, all year long.

And I need a break.

Now the above highly organized mom did send her kids to school, which I think matters a lot. For the last nine months my young ones have been with me, pretty much 24-7, with me in charge of each day. Moms who send their kids to school have their own set of challenges to be sure, but they do have a 6 hour respite each day, while my respite usually consists of visiting the bathroom. (And sometimes not even then.)

Do not get me wrong here, I LOVE being home with my children, and teaching them, doing fun crafts and experiments, reading a book together on the sofa, and making fun treats in the kitchen. I could imagine doing it no other way.

Homeschooling moms, you are amazing. But please don't fall into the trap of feeling like you need to entertain your kids through the summer. We plan everything out the rest of the year, and it is good every now and then to give yourself a break. Don't stress about having every hour planned out for your kids.

You might be the kind of mom that loves planning out the summer and that is a great thing. More power to you. But this summer you will not find my kids enrolled in a day camp, organized and put on by me. We won't be making fun concoctions in the kitchen, or on some exotic field trip.

What will we be doing?

We do have access to a pool which is lovely, we have a TV, (movies only) and the sandbox and yard outside. They have tons of toys, books, and crafty things that are just sitting in the school room that they can do themselves (and clean up after, too). There is always the spontaneous backyard water bottle fights,  and we are planning a trip to see family, a camping trip, and spending a few days at the State Fair.

But that is it.

And no, I won't be sitting on the sofa eating bon-bons; I'll be planning school for next year, deep cleaning the kitchen and laundry room, working in the garden, scrapbooking, and catching up on my book reading list. I'll also be spending time with my kids, enlisting their help in the kitchen, taking them to the pool, and admiring their art creations.

And we'll have a super fun summer and I won't feel one bit guilty about not entertaining my kids.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Pie, Made With Grandma Nairne's Crust Recipe

 It's a little late, but you can still find strawberries for sale in my area. We start seeing the stands pop up around April and usually they last through June.

And what better thing to make with strawberries but Strawberry Pie?

My dad's mom was a great cook. She was raised in the mid-west and making pie was what she did very well. Her pie crust rocked, so when I got married I asked her for the recipe.

Side note: my grandma's name was Nairne. (A Scottish name that is pronounced Nar-en.) When my Sweetie met her for the first time he saw her name and called her Narnee. Innocent mistake and we still laugh about that one.

Well somehow I lost the recipe.

She passed away in 1999 and years past. In 2007, my grandpa decided to move closer to family and so we started going through his stuff and he told me to take some cookbooks. I love reading old cookbooks so one of the ones I got was this one: The Households Searchlight Recipe Book, published in 1938.

And a few years later I was reading through the book, and lo and behold, a slip of paper fell out.

The lost pie crust recipe.

Very appropriately titled Never Fail Pie Crust

What makes this pie crust recipe unique is that it calls for things you don't normally put in a pie crust like vinegar, and an egg.

The other thing about this recipe is that it makes 2 double crusts. I find that handy because pie crust, or pate brisee, can be made in batches and stored in the freezer for future use.

And let me tell you it is a great recipe.

The only change I make is instead of putting shortening in, I use this:

Coconut Oil.

I love this stuff and use it often.

You start by cutting the oil into the flour. Now on a hotter day coconut oil becomes liquid, so if yours is doing that I would recommend putting it in the fridge for an hour or so before you work with it.

Next you take an egg....

and add to it ice cold water,

and a tablespoon of vinegar. ( I used Apple Cider Vinegar.)

It's important that all of the liquid ingredients are very cold.

This gets all beaten together, then added to the flour mixture.

Then, mix it together, just until moistened. If you handle the dough too much your crust becomes tough.

At this point you will divide it into halves, or quarters if you are making a single pie crust. Wrap the remainder in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.


Roll out the dough using as little flour as possible.....

I put my pie pan on top of the dough so I can estimate how much to roll it out.

To get it into the pan I fold the dough into quarters, then lift and place into pan. This dough is pretty tacky and wet, but oily enough to not be sticky.

Into the pan.

Edges crimped.

The crust of a strawberry pie is baked before it is filled. How do I know this? The hard way.

In the first year that I was seeing My Sweetie, he came over to my parents house quite often, and so I started expanding my repertoire of meals. And when I found out that his favorite dessert was strawberry pie, I decided to make it.

I went to the store and bought one of those jars of red glaze (full of food coloring, no doubt). I made my crust, chopped up the strawberries, poured the glaze over, and put the whole thing in the oven for 45 minutes. It turned into some kind of weird strawberry jam inside a tough crust....let's just say that it's a good thing My Sweetie wasn't marrying me for my cooking.

So now is the time to cook the crust. And to do this I use the craft beans that sit in our school room.

I line the pan with foil and pour the beans in.

 This goes into a 425 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.

And comes out looking like this:

Well, I hope yours looks a little more aesthetic than mine. I always forget that the crust tends to shrink in the oven and line the pan right to the brim. Make sure that you let the crust come over the lip of the pie pan just a tad.

This cools while the filling is made.

The filling recipe I got from this trusty book.

The only change I made was I decreased  the sugar from 1 cup to 3/4 cup. It was still plenty sweet, so next time I might even decrease it by more.

 The strawberries are quartered,

and then blended up in the blender

Then place cornstarch, sugar and salt in a pan...and whisk in some water.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice...

...and then stir in the blended strawberries with some butter.

This simmers and becomes a lovely, darker color.

That cools, while the rest of the strawberries get quartered, or sliced, or even just put whole into the pie crust.

The hot glaze get poured over the strawberries, then the pie goes into the refrigerator for a few hours.

And that is it. This time I cheated and got the whipped cream from the store, but you can easily whip up your own in no time.

So make this lovely pie.

Before strawberry season is over.

Grandma Nairne's Never Fail Pie Crust (Exactly as it is written)

Makes 2 double crusts

3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. shortening (I used coconut oil)
1 t. salt
1 egg, well beaten
2 T. cold water
1 T. vinegar

Cut shortening into flour, salt. Combine egg, water, vinegar. Pour liquid into flour mixture all at once. Blend with spoon just until flour is all moistened. Keeps in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Rolls out so easy - it's the only one I can make successfully flaky.

Fresh Strawberry Pie (Joy of Cooking)


1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/8 t. salt
1/2 c. water
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. butter, cut into small pieces
6 cups strawberries
1 baked pie crust


Rinse, dry, and hull the strawberries; cut any very large ones in half. Measure 4 cups of berries and set aside. Puree remaining berries in blender. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in water. Stir in pureed berries, lemon juice, and butter. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring constantly and cook for 1 minute. Pour half the berries into the crust and spoon half od the hot berry mixture over them. Gently shake the pice pan to coat the berries evenly. Cover with remaining berries, spoon the remaining berry mixture over them, and gently shake the pan as before. Refrigerate the pie for at least 4 hours to set. This pie is best served the day it is made.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I can't believe it is already the middle of June. Time is moving way too fast and I need it to slow down! Before I know it summer will be over and we will be back into school again.

What I'm listening to: Right now, as the kids are doing their independent work, we are listening to some fun soundtracks on Spotify.

What we're learning: I figured out our school schedule and we have about three weeks left in this school year. Since we have already stopped our co-op history and science, I am having the older two read through a world geography textbook. The younger two are finishing up their workbooks and such this week...I am thinking they will take a break from math the last two weeks and we will find some good math games to play.

What I'm watching: Over the weekend My Sweetie and I watched Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. This is one of my favorite Christie mysteries and a really good movie too.

What's cooking: This week I am making a Southwest Chicken Salad, Mediterranean Wraps, and a orzo-sundried tomatoes-basil and feta salad for our church picnic this Sunday.

What I'm thankful for: I am so thankful for the opportunities my children have to serve. In our church, in 4H...there are lots of places for them to uses their gifts to help others.

What I'm planning: I am starting to think about our school schedule and subjects for next year. I am looking into a chemistry program for the older kids, an online geography resource, and math curriculums. My goal is to get it all figured out by the end of July so I will truly have August off from school stuff.

What we did this last weekend: We ran a few errands and then had grilled chicken for dinner. Yesterday we went to church and heard a sermon on Joshua and Jericho by our new summer intern. Then we fellowshipped for a while and headed home to celebrate Father's Day and My Sweetie's birthday. We had a fun afternoon talking, grilling steaks, and watched the end of the basketball finals game.

What I'm looking forward to: We have a birthday party for an old friend (as in someone we have known a long time) and we are looking forward to that, plus our dear friends from the east are coming for a visit this weekend and we are excited to hang out with them again.

Pictures to share:

~Happy Birthday sign, courtesy of the kiddos...

~Birthday/Father's Day Dinner: steak and caramelized onions, sun dried-garlic-basil pasta, zucchini and tomato stacks, and homemade Caesar Salad.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Product Review: Memoria Press Geography


Do you know where Algeria is? How about Bulgaria, or what the capital of Lebanon is?

Honestly, I would take guesses as to a couple of those and probably land in the general area, but world capitals? Not my forte. Which is why, when this Geography I came up for review from Memoria Press I thought it was exactly what some of my charges needed.

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What It Is:

Geography I, meant for grade 4+ students, covers the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. A part of the world that is very important, but that we might not know much about. The goal of the curriculum is that each student would be able to identify all the countries and their capitals in that region on a map. Each week you will study 2-3 countries. In the student text there are 2 pages per country. Here your child will read a couple of paragraphs highlighting historical events. There is also a section that gives some insight into its culture today and shares interesting information. There is a Fast Facts section which gives the country numbers and stats: population, religions, language, climate, resources and more are all listed for easy reference. On the opposite page is an easy to see map of the country. including neighboring countries, rivers, major mountain ranges, and oceans. You can see a sample page of the text here.

Your child will then complete a page in their workbook. There is space to copy the capital and country, and a place to record some facts that they learned from the text. There is also a map to fill out; these include cities, mountains, rivers, or lakes. For each map there are between 4 and 12 things to label. These are conveniently listed in a word bank on the page. You can see sample pages of the workbook here.

I also received The United States Review of States and Capitals.  This review workbook is meant to be done after your child has learned all the states and their capitals. Once a week your child will complete a half page review sheet. These worksheets include identifying states, matching states and capitals, and capital and state spelling. Also meant for grade 4+, this simple yet thorough review is a nice fit for those students who have studied United States geography.

What You Get:

Geography I has three soft-cover books:

Student Text - This 103 page text book has all the information on the countries. There is an introduction to geography, plus introductory pages to each geographical area. At the end of the book are colored photos of all the flags from the countries. You can purchase the text for $14.95.

Student Workbook - The workbook contains all of the correlating worksheets that go along with the text and is divided into 8 sections. At the end of each section is a review page. This page is an empty map, which the student labels and colors. At the end of the workbook is a final review, which covers all the countries and has the student write each country and capital and label them on a map. You can purchase the workbook for $11.95.

Teacher Guide - The teacher guide has all of the workbook pages with the answers listed. I found this to be especially helpful with the reviews. Those European countries can be hard to learn! In the back of the Teacher Guide are the quizzes and tests; after each review lesson their is a quiz and after each section is a test. There is also a final test that gives a comprehensive overview of the entire course, and is the perfect way to wrap up your geography program. You can purchase the teacher guide for $12.95.

The United States Review of States and Capitals has 2 books:

Student Workbook - This 25 page workbook has all of the worksheets you need to complete this supplement program. You can purchase it individually for $5.00.

Teacher Key - This book has the answer key for all of the pages in the student workbook, plus quizzes that are to be done each week. There are also tests for each region and a final test to be done at the end of the year. You can purchase the Teacher Key for $7.95.

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You can buy all of the above books in a bundle package for $48.00.

How We Used This:

I used this with Dasher. Over our review period of 4 weeks we worked through the Middle East countries and began to study North Africa. We read the text together; her reading level is a bit behind so I would have her read the first paragraph in the text and then she would follow along as I read the rest aloud. She would then complete the worksheet in her workbook. At the end of the Middle East section there was a 2 page review, and then I copied the Middle East quiz, test, and final test from the Teacher Key and gave it to her. We did our geography 4 days a week and spent about20 minutes each day studying.

What We Thought:

Sometimes I think that geography is the forgotten subject. This was a perfect fit for us, from the appropriate text to the simple workbook pages. I really liked the facts that were listed in the text. I learned a lot about post-war Iraq in the short section we read and appreciated the facts about the colors on the flag, climate, and resources.

The workbook was very age appropriate for 4th grade. I especially appreciated that as part of the worksheet, the student copies the country name and capital three times. Repetition and copywork is a wonderful way to teach things and I loved how that was implemented in the workbook. I also really appreciated the Word Bank, printed right there on the worksheet. Even I can't spell Riyadh, Khartoum, and would probably mess up the spelling of Mediterranean too.

The United States review was a solid supplement. Dasher has not studied US geography yet, (Don't worry; it's on the list of curriculum choices for next year!) so I had my two older ones do some of the worksheets. They liked the simplicity of it, while I loved the incremental approach to reviewing states and capitals.

Memoria Press has so many great curriculum packages and resources...check out what they have at their website.

And other members of The Crew reviewed not only Geography I but Prima Latina as well. Check out what they thought by clicking below.


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