Monday, December 31, 2012

Most Popular Posts of 2012!

Hello Homeschool Circus Readers!

Can you believe we've come to the end of another year?

I want to personally thank you for taking the time to read, follow and share this blog!

Here's the Top 10 posts that were the most popular for 2012.

Surprisingly, the top post is NOT homeschool related!

10. Spelling Mechanic Review

9. High School Curriculum Reviews

8. K5 Learning Review

7. World History Detective From Critical Thinking Review

6. Lego Friends - Time for me to Eat Some Shoe!

5. Write Shop C Review

4.  Geography-and-Culture Task Cards from Creek Edge Press Review

3.  A Day in the Life of Homeschool Circus (Our Official First Day of School)

2.  Our 2012-2013 Curriculum Choices

And in the #1 spot.....   :::::DRUM ROLL PLEASE:::::

1.  Why Once a Month Cooking?

Wishing you all the best for the coming year!
~Lisa from Homeschool Circus

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Teaching Technology Through Interest Projects Review!

Brainstorm, research interests, become tech-savvy, create presentations in slide show, documentary movie and animation fashion AND reflect on the project by blogging. These are all contained in  Teaching Technology Through Interest Projects.  Use this book as a main curriculum or as a reference for future projects.

Teaching Technology Through Interest Projects
From Critical Thinking:

Developed over six years by a classroom teacher, this fun, highly effect method for teaching research and presentation technology to students provides easy-to-follow step-by-step guidance for the teacher/parent and student.  Covering all National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S, these activities and handouts will save you hours of time regardless if you are a novice or expert.

Students love creating a presentation on something that interests them.  Therefore, Interest Projects work great in all types of classrooms:  regular, gifted, or homeschool.  All activities may be taught by grade level or in multi-age classrooms.
This program introduces students to:

* PC and Mac file storage system
* Microsoft Word
* Mac Pages
* Open Office Writer
* Microsoft PowerPoint
* Mac Keynote
* Open Office Impress
* Windows Live Movie Maker
* iMovie
* Photo Story 3 for Windows
* Scratch

Completion of activities within this book will assist students in acquiring the following skills and abilities:

* Comprehension of basic computer operation and file storage system
* Comprehension and application of basic Internet functions and research techniques
* Understanding the importance of citing references
* Keeping work on computer organized to save time and minimize frustration
*Comprehension and application of presentation technology programs for synthesizing information.
*Presentation of information and communication with peers as essential leadership skills.

Take a peak inside.

This is another great curriculum from Critical Thinking. Eventhough the age is marked grade 3+, I would say it's best for middle and high school students.

I found that finding time to work on such a curriculum was difficult without planning for it at the beginning of the year.  I would suggest pre-planning this for your next school year OR using it as a summer project.

As for our homeschool, it will fit nicely into our summer plans for my middle and high schoolers.  In fact, they look forward to it!

I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A+ Interactive MATH - 1st Grade Review

A+ Interactive math is an easy to use program which includes lesson plans, workbook pages, and answers to all problems in a package that makes planning a breeze for mom!  Plus completed lessons and 'grades' received are all conveniently recorded for you.

If your child enjoys doing math on the computer, then this is a program worth checking into.

A+ Interactive MATH - 1st Grade includes:

1) Multimedia lessons (highly animated lessons that combine all three learning modalities - Audio, Visuals and Text-based instructions)

2) Interactive Q&A which identifies gaps and reinforces learning with step-by-step problem solving instructions using Audio, Visuals and text-based instructions. 

3) Printable worksheets. 

4) Worksheets Solution Guide - A Parent's Manual (with step-by-step problem solving instructions to each worksheet problem). 

5)Printable Exams. 

6) Exams Solution Guide - A Parent's Manual (with step-by-step problem solving instructions to each exam problem). 

7) Curriculum Book (Full year curriculum book in digital format on the CD). 

8) Lesson Plan and, 

9) Reference sheets.

Our experience:

I really liked how easy this program was to install, set up and use.  It does a good job explaining the concepts and providing problems to work through giving the student immediate feedback.

1st grade Table of Contents

Eventhough I do not have a first grader, I had my three school-aged children (who have very different learning styles) look at the program.  My analytical, straight forward child thought the program was fine.  My very social and vocal child that the program was ok.  But, my kinestetic hands-on child thought the program moved too slowly and wouldn't like to learn math in this way.

My only complaint about this program is that the parent must keep up with the Lesson Plans and manually review the requested sections.  Review work is not automatically built into the interactive portion of the program.

****Note added on 1/1/13.  Since the posting of this review, I've been made aware of a few things.  First off, A+ Tutor Soft will soon release a new version for the 1st and 2nd grade which will include "cumulative reviews".   Also, their "Online Homeschool Edition" includes automatically graded worksheets and exams along with automatic recording and reporting. This would be a good choice for parents who are looking for everything completely automated.  (Teaching, Review, Practice, Grading and Reports.)

Check out a DEMO for yourself and see if A+ Interactive Math is a good fit for your homeschool!

I received a cd copy of this program free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Junior Analytical Grammar: Mechanics Review!

After my oldest spent YEARS using various grammar programs DAILY only to come to the end of the year and give us that 'deer in the headlights' look during testing we knew we needed help!

Three years ago, a good friend of mine suggested Analytical Grammar. She explained that you didn't do it everyday or year around. And, it WOULD stick. I thought she was out of her mind, but, being desperate for results I bought a copy of Analytical Grammar.

I was blown away with the results. My oldest, who was a middle schooler at the time,  retained so much information. The struggles over grammar and the daily worksheets were over!

Junior Analytical Grammar Mechanics
Junior Analytical Grammar: Mechanics

To read the rest of this review, please CLICK HERE.....

I received a student and teacher manual free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Temptation of Sour Grapes

At first mention, sour grapes don't sound very appetizing.  However, they have a strong pull to be consumed.

Why on Earth would someone want sour grapes?

You don't necessarily WANT them, at least not outright.  The desire for these grapes happens covertly. have a need in your life.  You pray and pray and pray for God's touch or provision.  Those around you are blessed with the same thing YOU need and have been praying for.

Sometimes it's easy to rejoice with them and their blessing.  But sometimes the "why not me, how come them" takes over and the eating of sour grapes ensues.

I don't write this from a standpoint of superiority.  I write from a humble place of experiencing it first hand.  Eventhough I can't see the forest through the trees, I know God is for me.  Eventhough I don't understand why we are in this holding pattern, I trust in His infinite wisdom and timing.

His ways are not our ways.  So, I can resist the temptation of the sour grapes and do His desire for me one day at a time.  I can find joy in these steps because at the end of it all, I know the harvest is coming.  And this harvest does not contain any sour grapes!

Galatians 6:9
Let us not grow weary doing in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Full-Time Parenting Book Review!

Some books are encouraging

Some books are enlightening

Some books are convicting

Some books propel you to do better.

Full-time Parenting is one book that fits all the above.

This well written and well-rounded book hit quite a few areas that I thought I had 'down' and showed me where I could improve...and how to go about doing that.  I was convicted many times.  But, instead of feeling that I needed to run and hide, I felt encouraged to stand up and try again.

First of all, what is a full-time parent?  According to author, Israel Wayne:

 "Parents who choose to be a full-time parenting team desire to take as much responsibility for the care and upbringing of their children as they possibly can....Full-time parents look for every opportunity to teach and train their children in the ways of the Lord, just as they are commanded in Deuteronomy 6."

This book has so many great tidbits of information and encouragement covering a wide range of parenting topics.  From a Father's role, dealing with Pop Culture, marriage, purity, living on one income, considering a family business, education, single parenting, why children leave the faith and much more!

I appreciate Israel's straightforward, yet humours and gentle approach to these topics.  In the practical chapter on teaching your children to sit still and be quiet, he says,

"It is not always important for children to sit still and be quiet.  They are children and should be allowed to play, have fun and be noisy.  We don't want them to be miserable during their whole childhood.  But they do need to learn how to quiet down and behave appropriately in certain situations."

From the chapter on the hyperactive child:

 "The goal of parents is to work with the child's God-given energy, not destroy it.....Know the difference between being active and being unruly."

Suffer from Perfect Family Syndrome?

 "Plan on experiencing failures.  The good news is you don't have to stay there.  WE don't embrace a message of defeat but, rather, one of victory that says, "Sure, you're a mess right now, but you're growing."

I especially gave a wholehearted 'hear hear' to the chapter on Techno Parenting and how to use it with a biblical worldview.  This is one of the reasons why I don't agree with a total online approach to educating my kids!

"I guess my greatest  concern about online and computer education is that it can become a substitute for the parents, which is what we are trying to avoid by training to be full-time parents.  Because our main goal is discipleship, we should be more concerned with relationships and winning the heart of our children than we are with teaching academic concepts. A computer or another teacher online or via video can, perhaps, teach our children just as well or better than we can, but are we sure that is the approach we want to take?  I am not opposed to supplementing education with multimedia - I think it can be very beneficial - but I am against replacing parental involvement with an impersonal and morally deficient machine."

Israel brings up some things to consideration before starting a family business.  These are things I never thought of before and admittedly I had quite a gold-covered vision of what this would be like for my family PRIOR to reading this chapter!

"First of all, starting a home-based business must be something that is spirit-directed and controlled or it will inevitably be a disaster.  You need to find work that allows you to balance all of life:  your relationship with God, your family, and your friends, ministry, finances, long-term personal goals, parenting goals, and evangelistic and discipleship opportunities.  Never let one of these factors exclude the others.  They are all important.  God wants your life to be integrated to maximize your effectiveness for His Kingdom."

Christian Education Manifesto contains example after example of a Biblical view of the training and education of children backed up with PLENTY of scripture.  WOW!!!

 "Can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit?  A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher"  Luke 6:39-40  Christian parents must not turn the leading of their children over to someone who is spiritually blind.  Education is discipleship.  The students is becoming like the teacher.  Do you want your child to become like his atheist teacher?"

The chapter on advice for single parents is VERY thoughtfully written:

 "Faithfulness and consistency based on Biblical principles will go a long way toward establishing a solid relationship with your children that will not easily be shaken.  Much healing takes place when the peace of God reigns unhindered in your midst.  When just a little girl, my youngest came to me one day asking, "A lady at church said that us girls come from a broken home.  We're divorced but our home's not broken.  We used to be broken, but not anymore!"  Out of the mouth of babes!  There's no sense of lack when Jesus is held in honor as the head of a household."
My husband even read most of this book.  Now, for him, that's a BIG thing.  He's never read a parenting book outside of the Bible!  He started on the chapters on education and went from there.  He said the book was very well written, easy to read, Biblical and right on!

We both highly recommend Full-Time Parenting!!

I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up - Lizards in the Bathroom, Hands-on Science and More

You know it's going to be quite a week when it starts out with your daughter yelling "There's a lizard in the bathroom, there's a lizard in the bathroom".....

House GeckoTurns out  she was right.  It's our first House Gecko we've seen since we've been living in the Sunshine State!  Mr. Gecko stayed with us overnight for observation before being released.

For our literature/geography study (from Creek Edge Press) we went over the Mid-Atlantic states with my 9 year old, "took in"the fabulous sights of New York City and began the book, Miracles on Maple Hill.

Coloring pages for Mid-Atlantic States
Coloring pages for Mid-Atlantic States

Miracles on Maple Hill
Miracles on Maple Hill
Who would have thought a piece of great literature would be a jumping off point for a study of Botony?  It was a lot of fun to look up these plants that were mentioned in the book:  Bloodroot, Hepaticas, Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Dogtooth Violet, Cowslips, Marsh Marigold to name a few!

We also had quite the week for science experiments.  From Lesson 6 of our Apologia Flying Creatures science book we tackled (or at least attempted) these 'Eggs Experiments'.

First one - Raw or cooked?

"In this experiment, you will learn how to tell a cooked egg from a raw egg.  First, get a hard-boiled egg and a raw egg.  See if you can tell which is which just by studying the eggs.  Then, spin each egg on a flat surface (like a table).  After the eggs have been spinning a bit, stop them by placing your finger on top of them.  The hard-boiled egg will stop spinning, while the raw egg will continue to spin.  This is because the raw egg contains liquid, which continues to move inside the egg even when you stop."

Spinning a raw and hard boiled egg .... which is which?
Spinning a raw and hard boiled egg .... which is which?

Next, Pressure on Eggs.  This one tests how easy eggs are to break under pressure.  Take 6 eggs and crack the end off of each egg and empty the insides.  Wash the shells, dry and cover the holes with masking tape.  Stand the eggs up on their taped ends in two rows.  Take 4-6 heavy books - but before you stack them one at a time on top of the eggs, make a hypothesis about how many book the eggs will hold before they break.

Cracking the ends off of eggs and draining them.
Cracking the ends off of eggs and draining them.

Attempt #1 with 6 eggs (a little foreshadowing here that it takes more than one attempt  )  Sorry about the crazy camera angle at the end!


Well, when you don't succeed at first, try again.  Due to technical difficulties, attempt #2 with 5 eggs and attempt #3 with 4 eggs would not process...... neither attempt worked.

So, that was a flop.  We surmised that the issue was with the holes we made in the eggs not being even enough for them to stand 'straight up' on the table.  We will repeat this one again after we go to the store!

Now for the grand daddy of experiments and one that WORKED!  Note:  An adult (ahem, me) is lighting the piece of paper.  If you try this one, you need to have adult supervision/interaction!!!

Drum roll please ..... introducing 'Egg in a Bottle'!   "Do you know that things expand when they are heated and shrink when they cool?"  Here's an experiment with an egg that proves this!

Yahoo!  Success!  This experiment was repeated several times...and will probable be one to remember for years to come.  (I say 'exploding egg' on the video...but, the egg didn't really explode, did it?)

My daughter's Heteronym Poster Project from Spelling Mechanics

Heteronym Poster Project from Spelling Mechanics
Sorry about the glare.  First side says, "This is a dove. It is soaring." 
Second side says, "The dove dove in the cold water."

Tear and Tear ...... spelled the same but pronounced differently. Can you figure it out?
Tear and Tear ...... spelled the same but pronounced differently. Can you figure it out?

This week was also a week to visit with friends we haven't seen in a LONG while!  We hung out with Becky from There is Hope and her family taking in the Christmas lights and cheer.

Found an oldie but goodie.  Masterpiece!  Thought it would help my oldest with his Art History class.  The whole family enjoyed this game and truth be told, I haven't laughed so hard in so long !!!!


Fresh in from the pet adoptions, this is Marshmallow.  He's a white dwarf hamster full of spunk.  He loves to hang out with us while we do school and all is good until he tries to get into my coffee!

White dwarf hamster
Marshmallow the white Dwarf Hamster

And on a sad note, we said goodbye to Button, the gentle Blue Dumpy Frog, also adopted from the Pet Rescue.   He came to live with us about a year ago and certainly brightened our day.  This is the first time our kids have had to deal with loosing a pet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Christmas Break 'Plans'

We are on the cusp of Christmas break!  I've found throughout the years that too much downtime leads to chaos in our household.  Since we don't have much in the way of extended family plans, we are going to take the next two weeks and work on some special projects.

For my 9 year old daughter and 11 year old son I've made a goal to bring out the You Can Sew! curriculum from Modesty Matters everyday that we are home.  We've been dying to do it more often, but, life doesn't always cooperate!

You Can Sew from Modesty Matters
You Can Sew from Modesty Matters

I'll also be working on the writing curriculum from New Millennium Girls with my 9 year old.

Writing Curriculum from New Millennium Girls
Writing Curriculum from New Millennium Girls

My 11 year old son, much to his dismay, will be working on some math....but, we won't dwell on that !

My 14 year old will chug along with his Geometry and Game Programming from Homeschool Programming.  These are his two favorite subjects and he's close to finishing up both!  He hopes to start math tutoring, so, this is extra incentive for him!
"It's a Tree!" from Homeschool Programming
"It's a Tree" from Homeschool Programming

Besides updating my record keeping and everyday life, I'll be working on reviews from Analytical Grammar and Full-Time Parenting from Israel Wayne.

Beyond that, it'll be time to unwind, run free, meet with friends, curl up with a good book and worship our Savior!

What's your break look like?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up - VICTORY! Ear Lobe Genetics & Bat Baby Smells!

It has been quite a busy week for 'The Circus'.  While not much has been going on in the blogsphere, there's plenty happening in real life as we wrap up before break.

First of all, I must share a big victory and encourage those of you who have a child struggling with writing.

My oldest has struggled with creative writing from the beginning.  At the end of 3rd grade he could not write one sentence without tears.  This year, through our local co-op, a wonderful Mom who has a gift for writing and encouragement took the high school kids under her wing.  Admittedly, many of these kids don't have any writing issues.  But, it was beneficial for my son to hear the thought processes and writings from these kids in a non-judgemental environment.

I'm ecstatic to report that he made his first 'A' in writing!  He has come a LONG way in 6 years.  We continue to take this step by step and count each step forward (no matter how small) as a victory.  Slow and steady wins the race!

IEW Grade
Meanwhile, the youngers had some hands-on science fun!  This week we learned about bats.  Bats are unique in that they don't birth their young in nests - but, 'keep' them corporately in a nursery.  With hundreds of bat babies, bat mommies are able to find their young based on smell.  So, we pretended we were bat mommies looking for our babies.

After assembling a variety of cotton ball pairs with the same scent (vanilla, lemon, anise, eucalyptus, cinnamon, clove, spearmint, peppermint and plain) each 'parent' got a cotton ball with their specific scent on it.
Bat mommies and babies smell experiement
Bat mommies and babies 'smell' experiment

The rest of the cotton balls (babies) were mixed up in the center of the table.  Then the kids took turns trying to find their baby that matched their specific scent.  It made for lots of giggles as the kids tried to not only figure out their own scent but the matching 'baby' as well!

Bat babies and mommies smell experiment

Afterwards we returned to our assembled birdhouses to paint and decorate them.

Painting birdhouses

It was a combination science and art class!

Painting birdhouses

Even the Nip Napper had his own little birdhouse.

Painting birdhouses

Unfortunately between the paint and the clear enamel, the birdhouses couldn't come home with us until they finished drying.

While the youngers were busy, the olders worked on their experiments as well.  For the past two weeks, the high schoolers studied genetics.  Again, I was blessed to have my oldest son in a class lead by a parent who firmly understood the topic!!!

From the following info/pictures of our family, my son was able to compile a Punnet square based on attached and non-attached ear lobes:

Ear Lobes

Ear Lobes

Ear Lobes

Ear Lobes

Ear Lobes

Ear Lobes

Resulting Punnet Square:

Punnet Square
Punnet Square

While there was plenty of learning going on, there were some fun festivities as well!

Assembling a gingerbread hous
Assembling a gingerbread house

The finished product
The finished product

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fun Activities from Isabel's Secret!

"Winners never quit and quitters never win, for I serve the mighty God that lives deep within."

is the motto of Isabel Morningsky.  She's a spunky, 11 year old, christian girl living in the modern world.

In Isabel's Secret, join Isabel on her family's ranch where her life is full of faith, horses, nature and dealing with family conflict.  See how she gracefully deals with the revelation of a long kept secret while positively impacting those around her.

This book is also part of The New Millennium Girls Creative Writing Curriculum - Review coming soon!

Included in this book are some fun activities that all my kids enjoyed:  Making Confetti Candy and Christmas Card Placemats.

My daughter was all over the snack making!  For her confetti, she chose pretzels and sprinkles.

Melting chocolate
Melting chocolate 

Adding the pretzels
Adding the pretzels

Confetti Candy
Done and ready to eat!

Next up we made our own Christmas placements  complete with a Christmas Poem they created using each of the 5 senses.

I received Isabel's Secret free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

20 Great Audiobooks You Didn't Know You Could Hear for Free!

For all you book lovers and audio learners!  ~Lisa

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up - Hokusai, Picasso & A New Addition!

So, this week we played catch up from having the flu last week.  Well, that was until Wednesday when one of my children took quite a tumble off of some playground equipment and wound up in the ER.  We are all relieved that the injuries weren't serious!  God is good!!!

In our co-op, it was Art week.  The youngers studied Katsushika Hokusai and the olders studied Pablo Picasso.

First, the youngers practiced drawing Bamboo.

Bamboo Drawing Practice
Bamboo Drawing Practice

And then, tried making some freehand Bamboo branches with brush and black tempera "ink".

Bamboo Painting Practice
Bamboo Painting Practice 

Next step, learn and practice some Chinese writing

Chinese Writing Practice

"We investigated the importance of Asian art with its unique style.  Many of the world's master artists were greatly influenced by Asian art.  The children discovered the techniques common to masterpieces of art from both the East and West."  (Meet the Masters)

Chinese Writing Practice
Chinese Writing Practice 

The olders studied Pablo Picasso.  First they practiced their own Cubist compositions (right side of picture) and then transferred it to a larger scale shading with chalk (left side of picture).

Picasso Cubist
Picasso Cubist Compositions

"The genius of Picasso allowed a review of the art elements previously introduce - line, shape, balance and texture.  The children investigated Picasso's varied styles and were able to trace the transformation of this artist during his different periods of art."  (Meet the Masters)

Picasso Cubist
Picasso Cubist Compositions

And finally, a new addition to our household.  Meet Marshmallow.  He's a dwarf hamster that we adopted from Petsmart's animal adoptions!

Marshmallow Dwarf Hamster
Marshmallow the Dwarf Hamster