Friday, July 19, 2019

Crafty Classroom (A REVIEW)

At the beginning of the summer I decided that we'd start a year-long study of the United States, so I was happy to try out for review the  USA Activity Bundle Pack from The Crafty Classroom. So many fun ways to explore the United States with this bundle including state-shaped mazes, state birds, and an activity notebook. All available as a downloadable pdf. Let's take a look at each component of the bundle!

Crafty Classroom cover(1)

First, we have 50 mazes...


There are 50 state-shaped mazes in this e-book download ready to be printed in any way you wish. They are originally full sheet mazes, but I made them into booklets (one for each boy) with the mazes half-sheet size. This makes them a little smaller, but still very doable. My boys love their booklets.

I made 50 maze booklets for my boys so they could each have their own.
Still a good size for doing the maze!
I told the boys they could go in any order they want, and that they didn't have to follow along with our weekly states. They could also work as fast or as slow as they desire.

Aric decided to start at the very beginning.
 Next, we have the State Birds realistic art cards...


This was probably, by far, my most favorite e-book of the bundle. It inspired a whole bird study, complete with a nature viewing window. Each page included in the state birds pdf file includes a space to write about the birds, a color picture of the bird, a blank bird to be colored in, and all of the states the bird is associated with. I was surprised to find out so many states shared their state bird!

One of the pages from the state bird pack.
One book is suggested by Crafty Classroom for use with this pack, United Tweets of America 50 State Birds by Hudson Talbott. This book is so cool. I checked it out from the library to see if we liked it first, and we loved it. I will probably be purchasing a copy of our own for our year-long study. I do highly recommend this book to go along with this pack as well. It is a good quick reference. We also used several of our own bird reference books as well.

We used the suggested book, United Tweets of America, along with some of our own bird reference books.
We all had fun coloring the bird cards, including Mom. The book was a great reference and even provided some humor. I encouraged anyone who worked on a bird page to write down a few facts about the birds on the lines.

Everyone colored pages, including Mom!
My boys enjoyed reading from the book while coloring their bird pages.


My goal was to get all the birds up in our window so that we could play the matching game, and have a reference. We'll get there eventually! This is how far we have made it so far.


I made a basket so that we can pull out the coloring pages and have the reference books available anytime. This makes my nature study heart so happy! I really like these bird cards.


Last of all, the U.S.A. Activity Notebook...

We have only made it through one state so far (it has been a busy summer!). So, the only page we have completed in the notebook is Connecticut. These pages are so nicely laid out. I love the items included on the pages. There are plenty of things to learn about with each state, and these pages really capture the best of it all.

3rd-grade boy
6th-grade boy
8th-grade boy (who doesn't think he should have to do this)
This USA activity bundle is just awesome. Such a fun resource for helping kids study the United States.

There are some other great resources from The Crafty Classroom that the other review crew members tried out. If you'd like to see what else they offer, click on the picture below!

Hands-on, Low-prep and Ready to Go Learning - Tots to 3rd Grade {Crafty Classroom Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Simply Music (A REVIEW)

Learning the piano has always been a dream of mine. I did a lot of self-teaching as a child, just playing around mostly, and learning simple songs like mary had a little lamb. The most I've had for lessons are video games, beginner piano books on my own, or music theory classes in college. I am thrilled that we have so many more ways to learn music online and from other great musicians now which is why I was happy to try out the Music & Creativity - Foundation Course from Simply Music. This free online piano course is for kids or adults and has the student playing great music very quickly, like 2-handed songs by lesson 3!
Simply Music Homepage

The flexibility of online learning just can't be beaten for a busy homeschool family. With these online piano lessons the student can log in anywhere there is an internet connection, and work any time of the day. To begin our lessons I simply created a free account did a little looking around, and jumped right in.

Simply Music Lesson page for Foundation Course
Once I logged in I had access to all the Foundation Course lessons (there are 19), and as I completed each lesson I could mark it complete. The lessons are all video-based, meaning he teaches through a series of videos. There are some printables for reference and a book called Music and The Art of Long-term relationships (a PDF file). With the lessons all done through streaming video it means that I had to have something near me to view the lessons while at the piano like a laptop or tablet, or some other device. I just set up the laptop on my piano so I could have it almost in front of me.

How I viewed the lessons as I was at the piano. I've also used the iPad on the music stand for my kids.
As I mentioned earlier, there are some printable things available. I printed up the Foundation reference book which includes notes of things that are taught in the lessons. This is useful for practicing.

Foundation course reference book. I printed this up to use for practicing.
I didn't have any binding on the reference book, but I realized that it worked just fine without the binding as it would sit open nicely on the music stand on the piano.


Since none of my kids were interested in doing piano right now, I decided to use this program for myself. Even as an adult I still want to learn to play, but I'm not really wanting to take formal piano lessons from someone. This is the perfect fit for me as a busy mom. I can do the lessons in the evening, or whenever I can fit it in, and I don't have to leave the house!


I really enjoy learning the piano through Simply Music. The videos are good quality, he speaks clearly, and it doesn't move too fast. I felt accomplished playing a nice song called "Dreams Come True" with two hands after only a few lessons. I like that he explains things thoroughly and really gets to the why and how of getting our brains to think about music so that our fingers can follow.

If you've always wanted to play, give it a try! The Foundation Course is free and worth a try.

Read the crew reviews to see what others had to say:

Learn to Play the Piano with Music & Creativity - Foundation Course {Simply Music Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, July 13, 2019

S is for Salmon

Blogging through the alphabet, Field trip edition

We discovered this little piece of nature that is the Wildwood Recreation Site a few years ago and decided to go back a few weeks ago to walk around as a family again to see if what we remembered as being a really cool place was still really cool. It is still just a really neat place to walk around and enjoy nature. There are some fish viewing windows, a river, some boardwalks, and much more. My personal favorite is the boardwalks. That's the part I remembered liking the most the first time.

We started out by this fish artwork. A perfect place for taking a picture.


 The Salmon River runs right along with some of the trails.


Some of the boardwalks are part of the paths as well.


We ventured off the trail a very short way to a clearing by the river. The kids, of course, loved this log.


 This is the Salmon River, of course. Another shot of the kids.


Some beautifully carved benches were scattered throughout the trails.


This kid thought he wanted to touch the water from the bridge (this was a smaller stream). I think he would have just jumped in if we'd let him.


A view from the viewing window where you can see the fish swimming by in a stream.


This rock was huge and Alex's favorite thing to climb on.


A really old stump that needed climbing on as well (a little path went behind it too).


We crossed a big bridge over the river.


Crossing the bridge took us over to the boardwalks. There is some amazing nature to see on the boardwalks. They seem to go out into a wetland area. So much wildlife! We spotted birds, salamanders, wildflowers, and a frog. I'm sure we saw more, but I can't remember everything.


Alex was trying to see more critters in the water.


Those purple wildflowers just popped in color. We couldn't get close enough to see what they were, but they looked amazing from a distance.


We read some of the "nature journal" entries in these books at the end of each boardwalk. Actually, Alex read them to all of us. Good reading practice for him!


Aric being silly.


April got some close-up shots of flowers and berries.




The kids really wanted to venture down by the river again on the way back. Dad went up on the bridge to take some pictures of us.


Finally, at the end of our walk, they had to have one more jump on the big rock, and then it was back to the van.


A little bit about this place. We had to drive a little over an hour to get there. It's out toward the Mt. Hood wilderness area. There was a $5 parking fee, and the trails are mostly paved or boardwalk. There were several picnic areas that we noticed. It looks like a great place to bring a picnic and just spend the day exploring.

That wraps up my field trip for the Letter S!


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