Monday, September 22, 2014

Biology Class—Pond Cultures

In Week 2 of biology Class, the kids collected 4 samples of pond water, adding a different type of food to each jar—hay, soil, egg yolk, and rice. They then let the cultures sit for 3-5 days. When the containers were opened, they were quite stinky!


The students made slides from each of the cultures and put them under the microscope to look for microscopic organisms. They found a few (the hay culture seemed to be the most prolific), including paramecium and volvox. The volvox was quite fun to watch—it looked like a ball rolling across the slide! We learned that a volvox colony consists of many volvox that form together in a ball shape, each with a flagellum that propels it.


The students were divided into groups of three. While one group worked at the microscope, the others each drew specimens that I found online.


I’m still at a point of figuring out how much we can accomplish in 1 1/2 hours and the best way for six students to share one microscope. Over all, I think it went well, though.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Glacier National Park


We spent a full day of our vacation driving through Glacier National Park, with frequent stops for photos, sightseeing, and short hikes. It was absolutely beautiful. I found it interesting to see how much the landscape and vegetation changed as we reached various heights in the mountains.

We learned that the turquoise-blue water in the creeks was caused by snow melt. Tiny bits of limestone are washed down the mountainside with the melting snow. These bits of stone in the creek water reflect the light, causing the distinctive blue color.


We took a picnic lunch on the aptly named “Lunch Trail” near Logan’s Pass. Although we met other fellow hikers on the winding paths, they seemed more like mountain goat trails than human-made trails.



The lodge at MacDonald Lake…


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Montana Trip

We just got back from a trip to Montana to visit my aunt and uncle. We spent a fun and relaxing week and a half visiting, hiking, sightseeing, and playing with my aunt’s many dogs.



The scenery was beautiful, especially the mountainous landscape.


“This is Bear Country!”  Not a sign we see here in Alabama! We were hoping to see a bear or a moose, but never did.


Emily playing with the dogs.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Student Logbook (Schoolhouse Review)

My Student Logbook Review

 Product: My Student Logbook

Price: $15 for spiral-bound My Student Logbook ; $10+ for pdf logbooks

Age: Second grade and up

My usual practice for planning and recordkeeping has been to make a daily schedule in my homeschool planner. Emily checks the schedule each day to see what she is to do, then she or I check off each assignment as it is completed. This has worked pretty well (except for her tendency to check things off before they have been corrected or even when they are half done.)

This year, we’re trying something different. In my planning book, I’m giving weekly assignments, instead of daily ones. For example, under math, I might write: “ Chapter 4, lessons 1-5.” For Spanish, I might write, “Mango: 1 hour, Flip Flop Spanish lessons 25 and 26.”  Emily is responsible for pacing herself so that the work gets done for the week. Emily doesn’t write in my planner, but I do check the assignments off when a subject is completed for the week.

Emily has been using My Student Logbook to keep track of her daily work, and to make sure she remembers to work on every subject. Basically, the Student Logbook is just a chart with subjects listed at the left side of the page and dates at the top. When a subject is completed for the day, the student puts a check in that box.

However, there are some features that make the logbook more versatile and very easy to set up. The front of the book has assignment pages that are to be torn out as needed. Subjects are written on the page, which is then folded vertically and glued to the back of the appropriate weekly page, creating a flap that can be folded each weekly page. Each week, a new weekly page is just tucked under the assignment list, which can be reused for as long as desired. When the teacher decides to make changes in the assignments, she simply pulls out a new checklist page, fills it out, and glues it to the current weekly list. The old checklist stays in place for a record of work completed.



The daily checkboxes are small, but there is space to keep track of time spent in each subject. This is perfect for:

  1. Allowing the student to keep track of time spent on a subject over a week.
  2. Keeping track of hours for high school credits.

A couple of our high school subjects this year will need to have time documented: computer applications and PE, and I’m hoping that My Student Logbook will be a useful tool to do that. At this point, I’m still having to remind her to keep track of and to record time spent on activities. In the spring, Emily will do an art course instead of computer applications and we will need to keep track of hours for that as well.

The checkboxes can also be used to keep track of grades. We haven’t done that at this point, since I keep grades separately in my planner, but I can see that this could be useful for some families.

My Student Logbook includes a very helpful article on creating high school transcripts and documenting hours for courses. I found it very helpful and timely, since we’re entering the high school years, when record keeping and transcripts are even more important.P1040565

My Student Logbook also includes record pages for:

  • Books Read
  • All About Me
  • Prayers and Goals
  • Bible Verses Memorized
  • Events, Projects, Field Trips, Presentations, Activities
  • Test Records
  • Year Highlights

Using the Planner

I never find that pre-printed planners meet my needs exactly, so the first thing I did when we received My Student Planner was to make a few modifications. I repurposed one page for community service, dedicated one to just field trips, and added a page to document daily activity for a computer applications course.




Several pages did have example entries on them. This bothered my obsessive need for things to be “neat” and I probably won’t use those pages. I think a separate loose page with examples  would have been a better option.


Several choices are available for the cover, which is a paper sheet covered with a heavy plastic page. I was concerned about durability, but the plastic does seem to stick to the paper cover, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem with wear or tearing. Emily chose the Rainforest cover. Some of the other options are Jets, Butterflies, Ocean, Golden Vines, Vintage Map, and Dinosaurs.



The Student Logbook has been a good tool for us. It has helped Emily become more accountable in her work and she’s enjoyed having her own record keeping tool in addition to my plan book.

Click to read Crew Reviews

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Standard Deviants Accelerate Free Promo!


We’re just starting a new review for the Standard Deviants Accelerate site. 14 courses are available for biology, algebra, arithmetic, earth science, American history, and more. Emily is really enjoying the funny (but educational) videos and quizzes in the biology class she is trying out.

These courses are normally $99 a year each, but right now, Standard Deviants Accelerate is offering a free 6 months promo for ALL of the classes. (I receive no benefit for sharing this information—just wanted to spread the word!)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fun with Lentil (Way back when…)

Teaching with children’s books is a fun way to learn and a great way to bring stories to life. One of the books we read and studied with Five in a Row when Emily was little was Lentil, by Robert McCloskey.

Lentil is a little boy who cannot whistle because his mouth won’t pucker. But he learns to play the harmonica and, by doing so, saves his down from disaster.


“In the town of Alto, Ohio, there lived a boy named Lentil.”


“His favorite place to practice was in the bathtub, because there the tone was improved one hundred per cent.”




“Old Sneep knew that when the musicians looked at him, their mouths would pucker up so they could not play their horns.”






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

S is for Science Class

This year, Emily is studying biology. In order to make it more fun for her and to get some social interaction into our week, I’m doing a Friday afternoon class/lab for 6 students. We’ll primarily be doing the labs from  Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology, but will also do some discussion and other (hopefully) fun activities to learn concepts and vocabulary.

Last week we started with Module 1. We talked about the meaning of the word “biology” and some of the branches of biology. Then I explained how to write a lab report.

The students worked in groups of  two to classify various organisms using a biological key. This turned out to be somewhat difficult. A few of the options had me stumped for a bit!

Then, we got to the fun part—learning to use a microscope. After learning the parts of the microscope and how to focus, the students made slides of a letter “e’' cut from a magazine, some colorful thread, and of cheek cells.

It was a successful first class and I’m looking forward to more!




blogging through the alphabet sm.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spiritual Renewal Study Bible


The NIV Spiritual Renewal Study Bible is a devotional Bible with the goal of guiding the reader to “experience new growth and transformation in [his] spiritual walk.” Features unique to this NIV Bible include:

  • Bible Book Introductions that emphasize the spiritual renewal themes in each book.
  • Text Notes that help the reader relate each passage to his own spiritual life
  • Character Profiles that describe each character’s strengths and weaknesses and lessons from his or her life.
  • Spiritual Keys Devotionals
  • Spiritual Disciplines Devotionals
  • Spiritual Disciplines profiles that focus on the specific spiritual disciplines described in Bible characters’ lives

I began with the Spiritual Keys Devotional Reading Plan. This includes 7 devotionals for each of the 7 Spiritual Keys for the Old Testament, and another 49 devotionals for the New Testament. Each is printed on or near the page with a corresponding Bible passage and directs the reader to the next day’s reading. Each devotional was based on scripture and helped me to relate it to my own life. Topics include:

  1. Seek God and Surrender to Him
  2. See the Truth
  3. Speak the Truth
  4. Accept Responsibility
  5. Grieve, Forgive and Let Go
  6. Transform Your Life
  7. Preserve Spiritual Gains

There are many other ways to approach this Bible. The reader could pick a spiritual discipline and read the three to seven readings on each discipline. He or she could do a study of Bible characters, reading through the profiles on each. Because even the text notes are indexed, one could do a study on a theme, such as anger, communication, choices, or boundaries, reading the passages or notes for each.

I liked that most of the features corresponded to a chapter or so of  the Bible, making it a Bible study instead of just a devotional based on a verse or two. I think it would be particularly helpful for readers who need help relating scripture to their own actions and feelings.

I especially enjoyed the character profiles. I think most of us relate to other people, and reading about the right or wrong choices characters made and how God used them was helpful in relating the concepts to my own life. I am also interested in doing a study of the spiritual disciplines (fasting, prayer, service, solitude, etc.) and think this feature will be very helpful. I do like how there are many ways to use the devotions and features, depending on the reader’s needs.

One change I would like to see made is to put the indexes to the devotional readings, profiles, and spiritual disciplines at the front of the book instead of in the index. Since these are a prominent feature of the Spiritual Renewal Study Bible, having them at the front rather than hiding at the back would allow the reader to manage reading plans and understand the study features of the Bible. Despite the wonderful study features, I didn’t find it easy to navigate.

I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

R is for Resources for Apologia Biology


Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd Ed. 2-Book SetAs I was preparing to teach Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology this year,  I started with a web search. I was hoping to find some co-op ideas for the class I’m  teaching, and was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few great resources shared by those who have taught the class before. Some of my favorites are:

Quizlet Flash cards, games and tests for vocabulary—Biology is packed with vocabulary to memorize. As I was initially looking through the book, the amount of vocabulary seemed overwhelming even to me. I was glad to find some fun ways for the students to practice.

E-Learning Links has links to printable vocabulary cards, a crossword puzzle for each module, and a hangman vocabulary game.

Lab forms at I printed out a variety of these and passed them out to the students to put in their lab notebooks.

These blogs all chronicle the usage of Apologia Biology and include activity ideas, photographs, and videos.

Applie’s Place

Mindful Ramblings

Sahm I Am

Many of the photos and videos would be wonderful for those who don’t have access to a microscope. We do have the use of a good microscope, but I’m not sure what we will really find, so I’m glad to have the photos to give the kids an idea of what they should be looking for, and just in case we don’t find what we are looking for!

blogging through the alphabet sm.