Virtual Field Trip: Doon Heritage Village

This month the Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team is talking of virtual field trips within our provinces.  There are many wonderful places within Ontario that I could talk of.  Niagara Falls, numerous historical sites (like Lucy Maud Montgomery's house!), nature trails, parks (both nature and amusement),  beaches, museums, quaint towns and big cities.  There are just so many wonderful things within this province. 

Several of us Canadian bloggers live in Ontario and for that reason I'm not going to talk of Ontario as a whole, but instead I'd like to share one very specific place I feel is worth travelling to if you live within a few hours.  That place is the Waterloo Region MuseumDoon Heritage Village.

Within the museum you will find permanent exhibits for the history of the region as well as a feature exhibit that changes throughout the year.  In the past we've enjoyed really unique exhibits such as the interactive circus exhibit or the interactive tree exhibit.  Currently there is an interactive water cycle exhibit, Ocean Bound!  Here you will learn the science of watersheds and oceans and the animals and ecosystems within.  You will also learn how we affect the water system.  My 3 kids just loved this exhibit, especially our eldest, Connor. 

This museum does a great job of providing plenty of little areas for younger siblings, throughout the exhibits.  Themed books and puzzles are provided in the feature exhibit and little play rugs with a toy are provided in the permanent exhibits.  On special days or weekends you can find the staff providing extra little activities at certain times.  For example one time we went and the kids made their own First Nation Pottery to take home.  Another time Connor "battled" a pirate while Emma colored pictures of pirates.

These inside exhibits are just 'icing on the cake', because if you visit between the months of May to December you will have access to a 60 acre "living" history Doon Heritage Village, and this is, to me, what is worth a drive to visit.  We live near enough to this we have visited several times and we've still yet to experience all there is to see, do and learn.

The museum is very homeschool friendly, offering discounts to groups as well as time with their staff, if you schedule a group visit. 

When the village is open there are usually scheduled "Homeschool Days" that we try to make it to at least once a year.  In the past we've enjoyed wagon rides and detailed history lessons from the staff in each building or house, some with a little activity to do such as make a scarecrow, wash laundry or help bake.

Each house you enter you are warmly greeted and welcomed by the staff, dressed in character.  You are given a very thorough history story of each home.  How many kids lived here?  What kind of work was done here?  What was the occupation?  Where they rich or where they poor?


Just some of the things my kids did:
  • watched a blacksmith and listened to his lessons
  • helped weave a rug
  • played old time street games
  • helped wash laundry
  • helped to bake muffins
  • listened to the butcher talk about a typical day in his trade
  • visited the farm animals
  • helped make a scarecrow
  • played checkers outside the grocer's
  • mailed a postcard at the post office
  • "purchased" a ticket for the railway
My kids just love visiting Doon Heritage Villiage.  We've been here several times and have yet to experience all the "living" lessons that are in each building - there is just so much to see and do!  Waterloo Region Museum would be well worth your time to visit.

To see what the rest of the Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team has shared from their province, visit The Canadian Homeschooler.

This month there is a super fun giveaway package with 3 great prizes.
  1. Family/Group Discovery Pass from Parks Canada. Valid for 1 year from date of issue.
  2. The Rough Guide to Canada - travel guide book
  3. The Ultimate Guide to Field Trips in Canada ebook
Open to Canada, excluding Quebec, 18+.  Ends April 15th @11:59pm

Homeschool Planning {a review}

HomeSchool Office Review

I will admit right now I am not one to particularly like extensive planning.  After creating plans I easily can stress myself out if we become slightly off track, and if I feel like we are getting behind schedule.  My new way of planning is to do minimal planning and sort of fly by the seat of our pants (so to speak).  However this "no plan" plan can also become overwhelmingly chaotic.

I was selected to review Lord Heritage and I'll say that I was very nervous when I found out.  Not because I thought there was anything wrong with the HomeSchool Office - but because I am just so not a planner.  I will say though, that I am rather pleased with the last several weeks I've used this Internet-based office to help me manage, organize and schedule my day to day life.

Lord Heritage's founders have set out to help others to create order in their homeschool planning.  The program's strategy is to follow the acronym POWER:  Plan, Order, Work, Evaluate and Report, a pattern that can be found in Scripture.

I started out with a 30 day free trial, to familiarize myself and get set up before the review date started for us.  I found the program to be very simple to begin.  The site is clean (no flashy distractions) and easy to view.  The options you have can be overwhelming at first, but I have found that once you sit down to figure it out it becomes increasingly easy to use and I was very happy with the results.   There is a very handy "Support" link where you can ask questions or read through different steps on getting set up.

You begin under the "Team" tab.  This is where you enter in all your names and resources, your contracts and school district.  If your students are old enough, you can also enter a user name and passcode for them to access their lessons all on their own.  I didn't use this option because my kids are too young for independent access to our computers.

As you can see below, I was able to enter in my three little students and even "family", which I later entered for the purpose of group learning, which I'll talk more of later.

The next tab is the first in the acronym POWER - "Plan".  Here you will be able to enter in the school subjects for each student, plan your school year for days on/off, create a master schedule (what subjects, which days and what time), list projects and create a budget for each student.

Below is an example of our school year, the purple signifying our planned days of school.  Here, I liked that I could quickly see how many days, in total, we would accomplish at the end of the year.

The information you enter in with each school subject can get very detailed, if you need it to be.  You have the option to enter in the required hours, the projected total amount of lessons and the credit hours your student would have, if you are completing high school transcripts.  Here you can also list the books/resources you'll be using and your goal or objective for each subject.

Entering in lessons for each subject per child is found under Plan:  Subjects.  You would select to "edit" a subject then click on the lessons tab.  It was here that I became frustrated thinking I had to enter in twice (or 3 times) the same lesson for the shared subjects we do as a family.  I decided instead of being frustrated I'd utilize the Support and so I asked about a solution.  I got a very prompt response and I learned I could create a "student" called group, or family, and enter in our shared lessons that way.  Super news!  Here is an example of our bible devotions, under our new "student", Family.

Like I have said, I am not a planner.  I don't like to plan ahead, unless it is my "hard rule" subjects (ones we do daily, no exception) which is bible devotion and math time.  Even then, I don't like to plan much more than a week ahead, ensuring I go at the children's pace and not my own.  What I have found, in Lord Heritage, is that I don't have to enter in lessons for every subject.  If I don't enter in a lesson for, say, science, then the site turns over at midnight, marks all our subjects "completed" and creates placeholders for subjects with no lessons.   I can now, should I chose, go back and edit the placeholder to enter in what we did do.

The next section is Order.  Here you will schedule your lessons, set reminders and create lists of things you need to get done.

My screenshot shows a great example of how I went from listing twice (for both Connor and Emma) our group activity, then figuring out I could create a "Family" calendar.  I was also able to, later, change our schedule for math and science which nicely keeps our old schedule we had already completed.

The next tab you will visit is Work.  At first glance, as the teacher, it looks the same as Order.  It is here though, that your student(s), under their separate log-ins, would have access to their work schedule, lessons and to do list.

You have the option to print your lists and schedules to take with you, away from the computer.  This would also be a nice feature for someone that would like to use this web-based program but doesn't have internet at home.  Go set up shop at the library, plan away and print to take home!

Next is Evaluate.  This is where you enter in grades for lessons completed.  This is also where you take attendance.  Attendance is done for you, by default (unless you override manually), for each day you entered under Plan:  School Year Plan.

Last there is Report.  It is here that you can generate reports and transcripts, whether for personal use or for state requirements.  This is a section I didn't use as we (don't hate me!) are not required to submit anything to a school district.  However, I do like the option of making my own reports just to have on file over the years.

I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to review Lord Heritage's HomeSchool Office.  In being purposeful to plan, even in a minimalist way, I have seen great improvement in our daily life.  When the kids come down in the morning they usually want to begin right away and I would (before using HomeSchool Office) need to scramble in irritation to print worksheets or find where we left off in books.

In keeping with my self-appointed rule of "at least plan one week in advance" I've saved myself a lot of hassle in the mornings, and irritation during the week when we come upon things I wouldn't normally have been prepared for,  such as science experiments or printing needed worksheets ahead of time.  I can see at a glance, the plan I have set for the week ahead.

I'm truly looking forward to using this HomeSchool Office more.  I really feel I haven't used it to it's full potential, even after 8 weeks of nearly every day use.  I will soon be planning our 2015/16 year and I really feel I will, for the first time in our homeschooling, be ahead of the game in terms of being ready and organized.

  • all your homeschool management needs at a glance or a click away
  • as detailed (or not) as you need it to be
  • schedule can be printed for offline use
  • records can be exported to CSV (I'm not sure what that means but I'm sure it's a good thing)
  • 30 day free trial to get familiar with the site
  • fair price for a year membership
  • good support system; lots of help
  • color-coded scheduling
  • interactive and editable
  • at the mercy of your Internet speed or the site's server speed or maintenance times

To see what the rest of the 100 reviewers from the crew thought about Lord Heritage click the banner below:

HomeSchool Office Review

Butterfly Mini-Unit Study

Over time this year our "review" weeks have turned into interest-based learning weeks.  Our last review week we (instead of reviewing what we've learned) learned about Japan

For this scheduled "review" week we asked Emma what she wanted to learn about and her answer was an enthusiastic "Butterflies!!"

We read from three books:
For a little bit of fun we bought Emma a Butterfly Tiara to complete.  She loved this and wouldn't take a break until it was complete.

How better to end our little mini-unit study for Emma, than to visit the Butterfly Conservatory?

Our biggest "take home lesson" was little miss Emma does NOT like butterflies, after all.  She has declared she is "ALL DONE!" learning about butterflies and would like to do cats next.

From the conservatory we got a nice sturdy handout that showed pictures and names of the various species we might find. 

Top Row:  1) emerging Blue Morpho  2) female Great Eggfly ?  3) Julia
Middle Row:  1) male Great Eggfly ? 2) male Rumanzovia Swallowtail ?  3)  Rice Paper  4) blue form Doris ?
Bottom Row:  1) Owl Butterfly  2) Postman ?  3) Butterfly "safari" spectator

To Connor's delight there were also rare bugs (live) and a separate section for displays of beetles and spiders and other gross things mom was not humored with.  lol.

Katydid (leaf bug) and Goliath Beatles, and that is where my picture taking bravery ended.

Linking up with:
   Hip Homeschool Moms Weekly Wrap-Up Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop

GPA LEARN {a review}

Critical Thinking Company Review

Math time is always a struggle in our home with our son, Connor (age 8).  He really has a hard time understanding math concepts, being a very visual and hands on learner, and as a result bulks at any written curriculum. I am always striving to find a way for him to Love Math.

We were very excited to be asked to review GPALOVEMATH, by GPA LEARN.  GPALOVEMATH is a web based math application for kids working at the grade range of Kindergarten to grade 5, created by the company Great Parents Academy (GPA).  We used this program with both Connor (2nd grade) and Emma (Kindergarten). 

Each grade provides math lessons with the help of animated characters, each grade having a different character.  The character helps the student along, through each lesson and each lesson also has it's own set of practice problems followed by a short quiz.  There are over 150 lessons provided for each grade.

When you first sign up you do so under your teacher profile where you can then add your student(s) profile and set up their separate user name(s) and password(s).  The teacher and students both have 4 tabs, within the program, to maneuver between.  Dashboard, Learn, Engage and Motivate.  The teacher account and the student accounts are similar in that they each have the same clean design with 4 tabs to maneuver, Dashboard, Learn, Engage and Motivate.  There are several helpful videos that do a great job of explaining how Learn, Engage and Motivate all work, for both students and teachers.  Additionally, when your student first logs in, the only video they can access is "orientation" which after completion will unlock lessons. 

The Dashboard is where either the student or teacher (depending on who is logged in) can see an overview of all lessons.  Here you will find the total lessons completed and the scoring was earned.  You will also see any pending activity from the engage section, as well as the number of lessons needed to complete to stay on schedule.

The following screen shot, from my teacher profile, shows Connor's dashboard where I can see he has completed 1 lesson out of 3 for the week, he exceeded expectations last week, and he has a reward coming up of 1 quarter.  (this part is blank under the student log-in.)

Lessons are organized into 3 groups (or rows) under the "Learn" tab.   Students have a choice to complete lessons from the green, purple or blue path.  When logged in as the teacher, you are able to "test drive" lessons, should you chose.  The lessons here, under your teacher profile, are organized in the same manner of green, purple or blue but they are titled as:
  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking (green)
  • Counting and Cardinality & Number and Operations in Base Ten  (purple)
  • Measurement and Data & Geometry (blue)
You are able to see your student(s) progress- which lessons they've completed and which are still locked as well as the score they have attained for each lesson.  Here I can immediately see an overview of Connor's hard work.  Whenever I would see a red (one star) mark I would then sit down with Connor and we'd complete a lesson together so I could better see where he was struggling.  This was just my personal choice, as a 1 star is still a pass.  If he would have failed the lesson then it would have to be retaken it was unlocked.

Lessons can be sorted 2 ways, in the student profile.
  • Recommended Order:  This is what the GPA team recommends.  Topics are available to students as they unlock lessons.  Lessons are unlocked progressively, chosen between 1-3 paths (green, purple or teal). 
  • Grade Topics:  lessons are sorted by topics and students can choose based on topics they choose.  Not progressive.
GPALOVEMATH provides a way for students and teacher (parent) to engage within the program.  Student and teacher each have separate log-ins.  This is where students and teachers and approved persons outside the program can communicate with messages, questions or suggestions.  We only briefly used this section as my 2 students are still a bit young for this.  I did send a quick note of encouragement, but I had to point it out to my 8 year old.  He smiled then pecked out a "thank you" reply but that was the end of our "engaging".  This would be a nice feature though, for students that were older and more efficient at typing.

The Motivate section is where you can assign rewards for your child.  With the amount of rewards I chose for Emma to have, she is scheduled to receive about 1 reward for every 9 lessons she completes.  The children are also rewarded points upon completion of a lesson and under their own Motivate tab they can "cash in" their points for rewards of their choice from the rewards store.  When they chose their own reward you are sent a notification in your own profile to approve or deny their request.

Connor and Emma each would complete 3 (or more) lessons a week over the past 6 weeks.  As the kids progressed in their lessons I was always updated via emails when they completed a lesson, and was given a summary of how they did.  I was able to immediately see how long they took with a lesson (or if they skipped it), and how they did on their practice and quiz.  The Kindergarten summary even sometimes gave a nice little extra tip to encourage you to engage your child outside of the application.

In addition, you are given an automated weekly report (a weekly digest) of each student's progress.

The price for this online math program is set per child/student per year, and all grades (K-5) are offered for each student.

There are many different ways you can enjoy this fun web-based math program.  Microsoft Windows, an Apple MAC, Apple iPad and/or Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet.  Acceptable browsers are Google Chrome (which is recommended by GPA), or Apple Safari 6 & 7, MS IE11 and FireFox.

My Thoughts

I really like the clean and simple design.  The application is colorful and inviting, without being overwhelming or distracting in design.

The application is easy and fun to use, especially with the helpful tutorial videos.  Additionally, if you have questions, using the handy "Feedback" link at the bottom, the response is prompt, sincere and helpful.

We used GPALOVEMATH with Microsoft Windows as well as with an iMac and an iPad.  I really like the versatility of this.  We only had one brief problem of loading, which was solved by the helpful advice of using Google Chrome.  Once we set that up on the Apple products we had no further problems.

My kids absolutely love the program.  While I found the voices of the characters to be robotic, they didn't ever seem to mind.  They liked the little mysteries that were put into each lesson.  They especially loved the motivate aspect.  On the topic of voices, I did like that the kids had the option to click on a text to hear their helper character read them the question, which was helpful for Emma since she can not read yet.

Emma is content with just receiving random rewards and when she does she's so excited she tells her daddy as soon as he gets home.  "I earned an extra bedtime story today!!".

The rewards certainly do their job of motivating, but for some kids it can potentially turn into a problem.  With Connor he quickly became addicted to spending his points and completing lessons for the sake of points.  This was solved by just telling him "no more today".   A way to turn off the points (and just leave the random rewards) would maybe be something to consider.

Overall, we really enjoyed this.  Connor certainly doesn't "hate" math any more, which is a huge improvement.  We look forward to continuing on with this for the rest of the year.

You can find GPA on the following social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

To see what the rest of the 100 reviewers on the crew thought of GPA, click the banner below:

In Freedom's Cause Review

Ask Mr. Bear {b4FIAR}

Recently we completed a week "rowing" with Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack using Before Five in a Row.   In Ask Mr. Bear little Danny is looking for the perfect gift for his mother's birthday.  I chose to row this book at the start of our marathon birthday month, which nicely began with mom's (my) birthday.


For our bible focus (in addition to our regular devotions) we used Kids of Integrity, Generosity.

We listened to Songs for Saplings: ABC: letter Gg, James 1:17, also using Totally Tots printables.


To go with the theme of "birthday" we used Scholastic's 15 Fun and Easy Games For Young Learners, Pieces of Cake.  This game teaches fractions to the young elementary (K-2).

Danny lives on a farm so we thought it was fitting to also focus a little on farms.  For math we used Old MacDonald's Farm Poke-a-Dot by innovativeKids.  This is an interactive counting book where you count Old MacDonald's animals, counting from 10 to 1.  My kids just love these books (and fight over who gets to press the dots). 

Social and Science

With all the animals in the book I decided Emma should watch "What is a Mammal" from Visual Learning Systems.  (Full review here.)

Sam loved Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. (we found a well loved copy at the thrift store). We opened up the book to page 16-17 and lingered over all that there was to see. 

We revisited an old favorite farm book, Kiss the Cow!.  Then read many "for fun" books, with the theme of birthday, such as

For Connor I got Our Farm: Four Seasons with Five Kids on One Family's Farm.

We ended the week with the 1st of 3 celebrations.

A Few Related Links

Linking up with:
Delightful Learning   Hip Homeschool Moms Weekly Wrap-Up

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