Fun Middle School Science

As I’ve shared before, I’m having Little take a substantially more unconventional science route this year. He’s already completed an official “8th Grade Science” curriculum, so we decided to made this year more fun. For part of science he’s taking an EV3 Lego Robotics course through Landry Academy. I’ve reviewed Week 1 with Landry here, but now into Week 3 we’re loving this class. It’s been awesome for him to be forced into using the robot and making cool projects.

One of the other approaches we’re taking is for Little to work through the Make : Electronics book by Chris Platt. The book is full of fascinating information on electronics, in a totally readable format. There are 36 experiments in the book. Little is working through 4 experiments a week. We’ll definitely slow down as the projects get more complex.

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Today he’s making a lemon juice battery. Cool middle school stuff here.

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One thing we did to make the whole process easier was to buy the kit from Radio Shack. The kit covers pretty much everything for experiments 1-11 and was about $76 on sale*. They have another kit for the second half of the book*. I suspect with the length of the book and taking a cursory look at the projects/experiments, by using kits 1 and 2 and working through this book will give Little a great background in electronics. As a third facet to his science work – we’ll have him work through some merit badges for stuff we’re already doing (robotics, for example), and this series will be great for his electronics merit badge.

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Another look at the fun. What do you think? Super fun for the 12-14 year old crowd, or what!?

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* I just got home from Radio Shack… The kit 1 at my local store was 25% off, making it $76, and Kit 2 was 50% off making it $59. Score!!!

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Done…. Well, one step anyway…

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Little completed his FINAL Eagle Required merit badge last night. Signed off. In the books (hopefully…). He’s a Star Scout now, so this is pretty sweet. We have a lot of transition upcoming in our troop, so every step forward he makes is excellent. I’m so thrilled that this requirement is done. Go Little!!! I’m proud of you!!

Review: Homeschool Legacy – “Birds of a Feather” Once a Week Unit Study

As we move toward wrapping up our school year, and transitioning to “fun” stuff, I was super excited when I learned that The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew would be reviewing the “Once a Week Unit Studies” published by Homeschool Legacy. We were given our choice of which unit study to work with (Homeschool Legacy publishes more than 15 titles), and I chose their Birds of a Feather 4 week study. As a part of my review in my role as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew I received one digital download of the Birds of a Feather unit study.

Homeschool Legacy Review

Homeschool Legacy Review

How does it work?

Homeschool Legacy ReviewThe Once a Week Unit Studies are designed to help families enjoy unit studies on a variety of topics, and enable scouts (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and American Heritage Girls) to complete requirements toward advancement and merit badge completion. With a son in scouting, the merit badge aspect was HUGE for me. I had looked at Homeschool Legacy supplies before (to help with integrating scouting into our school week), but had never purchased a study. I was thrilled to be able to try one of these out as a part of The Crew!

Once you get organized, the Once a Week Unit study from  Homeschool Legacy is pretty “open and go”. The first thing I did was download the study. After downloading I got a few of the supplies together. Since my main interest in using this study was to help my son complete the Boy Scouts “Birds” merit badge, I downloaded to merit badge worksheet to use alongside the study. I also got together our books – a birding guide, and some other supplies. With our gear together – completing the study was easy.

Basically, each week has a list of suggested readings, bible readings, video/internet links to research, and hands on activities to complete. By working through each week’s list, the kids can complete – or come close to completing – the associated merit badge by the end of the study. I love the download version of the study because all the digital links stay in the document, so completing suggested assignments later in the study is so simple! Click and go! With the supplies organized and set aside, the hands on activities were also super easy to complete.

Homeschool Legacy Review

Observations:

These are RICH unit studies the are aimed to teach a LOT more than just “completing the merit badge”. I appreciated the bible verses that were included, as well as the suggested reading lists which help to round out the study. The bird study definitely was more than rushing through a merit badge, and I would expect the other studies to be similarly deep.

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My kids really enjoyed the hands on activities, and were able to complete them on their own. I really appreciated the amplifying notes – like ‘don’t feed birds for a week and then leave them to fend for themselves’. I think the focus of the study was really on respecting and treating God’s creation and I loved how that was communicated to the kids.

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As for scheduling, I will say that we worked on them more frequently than suggested (since we’re on a lighter schedule and the kids were enjoying the material!), but the “Once a Week” approach and the recommended activities would be really doable with our normal school load.

Any bad parts?

I did feel like some of the directions could have been a little more specific. For example, the Bird merit badge required finding and learning about 20 birds. I would have loved to be challenged to “find and record 5 this week” more than “start a nature journal” with the same information. I know that’s nit picking, but I think having those directions would help families to not get to week 4, think they’re close to completing, and then have to go find 13 more birds to complete the requirement.

Summary:

I really enjoyed  using this study, as did my kids. My son completed all of the requirements for his Birds merit badge by using the Birds of a Feather unit study, and he’s looking forward to getting all his work signed off soon. I’m confident with the depth of the study he won’t have any issues getting things signed off.

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Since our normal process is to pick a merit badge, print the worksheet, and get to work – this approach definitely helped us enrich the topic and really rounded out our study. I know we won’t use it for every merit badge, but it certainly was a great change of pace and I would certainly consider using Homeschool Legacy products in the future.

One thing that really struck me was how awesome I think these would be for non-homeschooling families. I know my son’s friends who don’t homeschool complete merit badges almost exclusively at camp or weekend “badge events”. Despite good intentions, they certainly don’t earn as many badges as my homeschooled son (since we can integrate learning so easily), and as a result their advancement can slow down. Since these studies take out all the planning and any intimidation that a merit badge workbook can induce, I think these would be great to use over the summer for traditionally schooled families. I also think  they’d be a great addition to Troop libraries as a means to encourage the guys to complete required badges and help them to enrich their merit badge learning. I know I’ll be recommending them to some local friends!

If you’re interested in Homeschool Legacy, they also have a great Affiliate Program you can check out.

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Weekly Review – Nov 21

I want to apologize in advance if this is the LAMEST Weekly Report ever. I wrote this long and witty report, but didn’t save it, so my ipad ate it for lunch. It was very sad. So, I’ll try and recapture some of the fun!

Sunday was the big Chili Cookoff at church. It was a blast!! We have a tiny fellowship – I refer to us as a “homechurch in a building” – and almost everyone brought chili. They were all delicious. On Saturday prepping for the cook off (and making chili for a friend to deliver her dinner), I made THREE separate trips to the grocery store.

Trip 1 – Red peppers. OK. Unless they’re cheap I don’t buy them…

Trip 2 – Onions. Seriously. I can’t believe I didn’t have onions!

Trip 3 – Cumin. Really. For chili. I went to the store and was met with this:

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I started texting a friend from church accusing her (JOKINGLY) of sabotage. I did find some no-name cumin on another shelf and managed to save myself from TRIP 4. In the end, the cookoff was a huge success and much deliciousness was consumed by all!!

The school week went well. We managed to squeeze in a couple of medical appointments, too. Apparently I have ocular migranes, which while terrifying, are better than normal migranes. Middle Age and I are NOT friends. The kids had orthodontist consults, and we start down that road next month. Yikes. I also made it to a Troop Committee meeting for Little Boy Scout troop, were I took over as the Troop Committee Chair. (Now that I write this all out, it’s not a huge wonder that I’m tired!)

Despite our best efforts at making school fun this week, we were ALL ready to be done by Friday. We worked hard to finish the week strong – and I didn’t cross much off THE LIST. The kids even did 2 science lessons on Thursday, working late into the night after TKD, to have more free time on Friday. They did a great job. Math tests were completed Friday (we’ve made it to the halfway point in math!!!), and little wrap up work was done, and…

FALL BREAK WAS DECLARED!!! PRAISE THE LORD!!!

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(In case you think my kids write this neatly – it’s my test – and it may be wrong! I forgot to grade mine…)

After the work was done on Friday we goofed off and did some baking. We are seeing family for Thanksgiving so many snacks needed to be made.

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In total there were:
2 batches of Chex Mix
1 batch of sweet Chex Mix
1 batch Chocolate Chip cookies
1 large batch Ranch Oyster Crackers
1 batch saltine tofffee

We should be SET for a while.

And, after the snacks were made and school was done we worked on a Kinnex set and watched The King and I. Musical Thearter Thursday – on a Friday – was a big hit. It was a great, busy, productive week… “etc…etc..etc..”

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I hope you had a FANTASTIC week. Are you taking a whole week off next week?

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Weekly review – 5/24/13

Seriously, it’s Friday already?!? This week has been NUTS!! We’re on our summer schedule, so it’s tons of fun and … math. LOL!!

Math – I think we’ve completed 5 lessons. Maybe 4. Math in our house it pretty much on autopilot right now. Little is on the geometry sections of Horizons 6, so it’s simple for him. Big is doing Algebra 1/2, but Saxon spirals so much most of it’s review and really easy. I’m super happy with both choices!

Writing– The kids are working on Scout stuff. Little is nearly complete with Citizenship in the Community.He had to do a write up on a movie, so he that this week. The kids are finishing the final touches on the family newsletter. Big is working on a massive tri-fold for an American Heritage Girls project. I need to be more diligent to FINISH the projects we start!

Scout Stuff – This week we attended the volunteer orientation for our local Humane Society and today we have our first volunteer session. To say they are excited is a HUGE understatement. Big is nearly complete with all the stuff she needs for her big award, also. We will be prayerfully considering our participation in scouting for the future. (The article linked sums up a lot of my feelings right now. It’s an excellent read. )

Field Trip! We had an amazing field trip this week. Here’s a teaser shot… More to follow this weekend…

ImageLife Skills Friday – We’re continuing with this and I LOVE IT! I am working on figuring out how to incorporate this in the school year. This week the kids are mowing the lawn, caring for a turtle, and volunteering at the animal shelter. I am sure we’ll stick one more thing in there for cooking or cleaning.

Rose for the Week – Animal shelter volunteer session and our field trip. I will report more on the first shelter visit later. I am confident that will be HUGE! I am loving seeing the kids find ways to serve in the capacities that God created for them to fill. It’s pretty awesome. (Also, getting the a/c in my car fixed was pretty sweet, too!)

Thorn for the Week – Or in this case, a thorn in my side! – THE FAMILY NEWSLETTER WILL BE FINISHED AND MAILED BY SATURDAY AT LUNCH!!!!!!!!!!! LOL!!!!

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Scout School

Working Lunch, LOL!

Since the kids and I have pretty much finished up the official “schoolwork” for the year we’ve started working on “Scout School”. Big is a Trailblazer with the American Heritage Girls, and Little just “crossed over” from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. I figured with some down time and less school time, we could knock out some advancement requirements and merit badge stuff. The kids do fine with “free” time, but I think this will provide them with some framework for a couple hours a day, not to mention to field trips and other stuff we’ll be doing.

This week Little has been working on “Citizenship in the Community“, as well as keeping a turtle to finish up his “Reptiles and Amphibians” merit badge. Citizenship has been really interesting. We went to Municipal Court on Monday, which could be a post of it’s own! The kids learned a lot and I think we’ve come up with some ideas for bills to write for TeenPact in the spring. Tuesday we visited the Humane Society and filled out the paperwork to foster kittens or puppies, as well as interview the staff there. Tonight we’re attending volunteer training there also. Last night when I was at bible study DH and the kids watched “Hoot” as a part of the requirement (which we’ll discuss and record today). Little’s also been working on his worksheet and getting the details down, as well as prepping up a PowerPoint presentation on our town for the Troop. Hopefully not all of these merit badges are so thorough! LOL!

.Big is working on finishing up a few things for her huge end of year award. She’s working on Civics and Government, Bible Basics and Best Me I Can Be. Most of her stuff is paperwork since she’s done the requirements already. She is working on a really cool tri-fold about the operation of the federal government, and I am excited to post pictures of it when she’s done.

With all the fun we’re having this week I can TOTALLY see why people love Unit Studies. I talked to a friend last night and we discussed my going totally Unit Study approach for history next year. Maybe… We’ll see!!