Home School in the Woods {a TOS review}

Home School in the Woods Review

If you follow along with us over on Instagram you'll have noticed that one certain little boy has been having himself a real good time, immersed in the world of Robin Hood.  All of our recent outlaw-ish fun has been courtesy of Home School in The Woods.

Home School in the Woods is a company that creates many different hands-on history materials for students, such as activity-paks, lap-paks, projects and studies.  What we have done was a time period study with Project Passport.  These studies are activity-based, providing several activities, projects, dramatized audio stories, and games to keep the children engaged and out of textbooks.   There are three world history studies offered by Home School in the Woods.  What we have been using is Project Passport World History Study:  The Middle Ages.  The duration of this "trip" is anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks, or longer if you have a younger student.

How does this all work?

There are two ways to purchase The Middle Ages study:  a CD version or a download version  We had access to the download version.  With the download version you are sent a link to access a zip file and given easy instructions on how to save and extract all files to your computer.

Included in the files is a folder labeled "Intro-Etc" with five very useful files.  Here I found very helpful "travel tips", which proved to be very useful once I began the study with my son.  I was also able to make a shopping list of items we would use most often, and gather those we already owned.

In the files provided, each stop has an itinerary to guide you, a text to read, and a master's folder to find your printables.

The itinerary gives detailed supply list and step by step instructions to complete.  This is where you are guided on which master file you need to print, and how to print it (single page or back to back) and on what (white paper, colored paper, white cardstock or colored cardstock), and how to piece it all together.  You are also guided on which timeline figure to add, which audio file to listen to (if any), what article to add to your newspaper or what postcard to read. 

Once I had our supplies ready, I began printing and putting together the first, out of 25, of the "stops".  I'll say right now that this history study is very parent involved if you use it with a younger child - one that can't maneuver the printing and such on his own.  While being very high in the parental help/supervision, I'd still say this all was very much worth it.  I did this study with my 8 year old (3rd grade) and as such I was doing all the printing and gathering of supplies by myself.  If you had an older student in junior high or high school, they could do this all on their own if you wish. 

What exactly did we do?

There is so much information we have learned in the past 6 weeks, I can't possibly detail it all, so I'll highlight a few favorites.

In the 6 weeks we've had with Project Passport, so far we have completed 8 of the 25 "stops".  Sometimes we take a day to complete a stop, and sometimes we linger for a week.  For each stop I had Connor color and cut out timeline figures and any other project that needed his attention (maybe a newspaper one week or a postcard the next week) while I read the text that corresponded to our current stop.

To accompany our projects we did use the "additional resources" file and picked out a few books, both fiction and non, to read along the way.

Our first "stop" was mostly my setting up Connor's luggage folder, his Scrapbook of Sights, his timeline, and his passport.  (The luggage is something you make once, to use with all Project Passports you might do).

Connor's thoughts on his Scrapbook of Sights:  "can I keep this in my room when we are all done!?  I love it!"

Stop 5, which was "Clothing and Food", was one of stops we lingered for many days.  Here we made a "Dining Out Guide" which contains some wonderful Middle Age recipes.  We learned what people wore in the different classes, and were given tips on how to piece together our own affordable Middle Age wardrobe.

We made our first "souvenirs", a Robin Hood Cap and a Floral Wreath.  Connor was beyond excited to let all who would listen in the fabric store know just what we were doing with our dark green felt.

Robin Hood was by far Connor's favorite project, but a close second was Stop 6, "Community".  Here we learned of life within a castle and we completed another souvenir craft card, "Sculpt with Marzipan".  I believe that his siblings quite liked reaping the rewards of Connor's hard work as well.

Our marzipan turned out slightly different than was described in our craft card because we used ground almond that had skin left on, and we didn't dye it any color.  The end result was still just as tasty.  Connor sculpted a castle and afterwords we broke it all up and made little squares to dip in melted chocolate - which wasn't part of the plan detailed on the craft card.

A final favorite of Connor's that I'll share is the jousting project.  Here he colored and pieced together an interactive tournament with knights and moveable lances.  He was so pleased with this (and again younger sibling quite enjoyed his efforts as well.)

My Final Thoughts

Having never worked with Home School in the Woods before, I did find it a little overwhelming to start, because there is just so much to do and take in.  (but this is a good thing!).  Conveniently there is a file included called "Intro", and since I was overwhelmed I did start there and found several files of information to get me started and better acquainted with the project.

I do think all the work is time well invested and is worth the benefit of your child learning in an active, play-based manner.  Never once did Connor complain to learn history, because it was never boring. 

The project is well organized and the instructions are easy to understand and nicely detailed.  In the end you are left with wonderful memories and a very colorful and sturdy scrapbook to enjoy and look back on.

Connor's Final Thoughts

"Mom?  Is this (the project) going to go on forever?"  Here I was thinking he was already done on stop 3 so I said, "just a few more weeks, why?  Are you bored already?" and he replied, "No!  I want it to last my whole childhood!"


To see what other reviewers have said about Home School in the Woods and what projects they talked about, click the banner below:
Home School in the Woods Review

Homeschool Planet {a review}

Homeschool Planet Review

Currently many are planning for their upcoming school year, or looking for help with planning.  If you are one of those still looking to plan out the school year, I definitely look into using Homeschool Planet.  I have completely planned out our 2015/2016 year using this super easy online planner.
Homeschool Planet is found within the Homeschool Buyers Co-op, a free buyers club that offers curriculum at a low price to the U.S., Canada and worldwide.
What is Homeschool Planet?
Homeschool Planet is an easy to use online home and school planner.  Within this unique planner you will have so many choices to personalize and make it most useful to your individual family needs such as:
  • an overview of your entire calendar
  • separate log ins for your students
  • printable lists and schedules
  • resource list
  • widgets for fun little extras
  • planner overview
  • a place for notes
  • a option to schedule in appointments
  • a option to schedule in extra curricular activities
  • drag and drop rescheduling
  • email and/text reminders for your daily and/or weekly schedule
  • no pre-existing subjects and color codes - you can enter in your own names

How I used Homeschool Planet:

The very first thing I did within the program, before even adding a class, was to play around with the widgets.  I added a daily bible verse and a daily weather to mine.  Here you can also add a list, and I tried out a reading list, for my oldest son.

After playing around with widgets and theme colors, I began to enter in a basic schedule for our next school year.  I found the entire process easy, no fuss, to figure out.  To add a class, you simply just click the start date on the calendar (or any date, as you can adjust the date).  You can add a class, a birthday/holiday or any other appointment you might have.

You can name your class whatever you wish and label and assign it to as many students as you need.  This worked beautifully for me as we have many subjects I do individually with a child and many that we do together.

When you are entering your class there are super helpful tools such as a tracking tool, should you need to track your hours for certain subjects.  You can also choose if your subject is repeated daily, every other day, or three times a week.  You can schedule a time, or leave it with no specific time.  There's also a really cool "Assignment Generator" which helps you schedule your lessons according to specific needs.  Is it a recurring assignment?  Do you have a certain amount of lessons to do by a specific date?  Do your lessons follow a recurring pattern?  Just simply chose one and click "next" to line it all up, all at once.  No entering every ever-loving lesson for every subject.  No ripping hair out.  Just plug it all it at the same time in one easy step.

You can color code your subjects any way you wish.  At first I assigned a color for each subject I made.  Then I easily changed it all to be colored per student instead of per subject, and changed the subject names to add the kids' first initials to make it all easier for me.  And to be honest here, I mostly did this because I could - because I had the time to fiddle around since the actual scheduling was so blissfully fast.  I had my whole school year all set it in a matter of hours.

One thing I really liked while entering in my school plan was that if I forgot a subject I could add it in while in the "edit class" mode, without having to back track.  It was all just so simple to use and fast. 

If you are looking for a flexible, easy to use, no fuss planner that includes both school and home, then I'd recommend Homeschool Planet.  Through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op you can use Homeschool Planet completely free for 30 days to see if it is a good fit for your family.

In my 5 years of homeschooling I have used many various forms of school planning, from online to spiral bound to printable or to not planning at all.  Of all the options I have found, Homeschool Planet is truly the simplest and fastest I have ever used.  I had my entire 2015/16 school year entered in and planned out within my first week!

To see all the other lovely reviews, click the banner below:  
Homeschool Planet Review

Sidewalk Paint

This week we made a super quick ( to put together ) little art activity we found at Domestic Charm.

I took 1 cup of water and 1 cup of corn starch and whisked it in a glass measuring cup.  It takes a moment to get it all moving, but once it was mixed I poured it into a little muffin tin and added wilton gel food coloring to each muffin cup.

The kids had a blast and I enjoyed watching what each came up with.  Connor drew "cave paintings" while Emma drew girls and popsicles.  Sammy just slopped lines and painted over his big brother and big sister's paintings.

We got lots of comments from the neighborhood kids on how bright our little spot was.... until the rain washed it all away. 

Afterwards the kids decided to see what else would "paint" onto the sidewalk from our yard - mulberries and dandelions!

See what else we have up our sleeve for potential summer fun on our Summer Lovin' Pinterest Board:

CursiveLogic {a review}

I remember when I was a kid always receiving birthday cards from my grandparents and great aunts, written in cursive.  Cursive seemed like such a grown up thing - a secret club that I wasn't allowed to be included in yet.  I distinctly remember my pride when I was finally in 3rd grade and allowed to learn this "secret" art.  I felt so grown up.

Recently I've started writing all my own notes and lists in cursive, because it's so fluid and is quicker.  My oldest, 8, of course, almost immediately began to beg to learn cursive.  He absoloutley hates any writing assignment so I was very excited that he wanted to learn cursive, even if he wanted to learn (most likely) so he would be able to read my "secret" notes.  With perfect timing to our current situation I was introduced to CursiveLogic and given a CursiveLogic Workbook to review.

CursiveLogic is a new and more efficient way to teach cursive.  Instead of memorizing each individual letter of the alphabet, one at a time, this new method relies on the patterns Linda Shrewsbury, the author of CursiveLogic, seen in the cursive alphabet.  These patterns are grouped into four and presented in "letter strings", which you learn together (connected) instead of individually.

Each of the four foundational shape groups (or patterns) have their own specific theme color.  To reinforce the shape patterns there is also an auditory cue for each group in the form of a rhythmical chant.

When we received the 96 page spiral bound workbook, Connor was so excited he begged to begin right away.  Begging for writing was something foreign to my momma ears.  My eager student began work right away on his orange ovals.  He had fun and he learned fast.  CursiveLogic was so effective that my hater of penmanship went off all on his own, after just one lesson, and took a rather large piece of easel paper and continued to practice his letters and piece together words he could think of from his first letter string.

Each lesson is roughly between 12-14 pages long.  We went about this maybe a little different than intended, by completing 1-3 pages in a sitting, because he is only 8.  We are currently on string 3 of 4 and Connor is still loving his writing assignments.  

At the end of the workbook there are three laminated practice pages with the CursiveLogic site offering several options as well for printable practice pages

With school's now phasing out teaching of cursive due to "not enough time", I think CursiveLogic is the perfect solution.  It is fast and easy to learn (and teach!).

To see what others have said about this wonderful cursive program, click the banner below:

CursiveLogic Review

Quiet Fireworks

We, as a family, have never but once went to see fireworks because of our sensitive child.  That one time we did try out ear muffs but with the close proximity of the blasts, there were still many tears and lots of shaking in terror.

I always feel bad that we miss out on typical patriotic things like loud parades and loud fireworks, especially with 2 other children that miss out due to 1 that struggles.

This year I had the brilliant idea to climb a really large hill (an old landfill turned park) near us and from our vantage point we had a complete 360 view of fireworks from 3 cities, plus all the homes that were putting on a display.  We all had a super fun time enjoying them from afar (quietly!) with a gorgeous view.
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