Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Brain Food Learning

 photo 31477_411332758959489_253604783_n_zps2cd64016.pngThe kids were excited when we were sent a free copy of the DVD The Fascinating World of Insects by BrainFood Learning. This video retails for $14.99, and is for any age, but it was most appreciated by my younger two (ages 5 and 7).

The kids have watched it multiple times now and they all really liked it, so that's pretty encouraging. We often watch shows only once. I sat down and watched it with them too, and I even appreciated it. The graphics are a collage of live video and still photos, but tastefully done. During the whole thing the music has a jungle sound which I thought was ok, but my 5 year old deemed "scary".

The main menu gives you the option of jumping to the insect features or the review sections, but we just go with "Play All". The introduction starts with an overview of insects and how they are diverse and everywhere.  It goes over the main parts of the insect including: legs, head, thorax, abdomen, compound eyes, antennae, and exoskeleton. They also highlight the different mouth types: piercing/sucking, sucking, sponging, and chewing.

In the next section they talk about 11 different insects in detail. When each one is introduced, the name of the insect is shown in print to re-enforce the name, like a flashcard. Five or six interesting facts are presented about each one, and the section is finished with a related vocabulary word and its definition. Insects detailed on this DVD are:

     photo insects_front_500__981921320383955300400_zps866e5588.jpg
  1. Grasshopper
  2. Ladybug
  3. Rhino Beetle
  4. Firefly
  5. Mosquito
  6. Honey Bee
  7. Water Strider
  8. Ant
  9. Praying Mantis
  10. Dragonfly
  11. Butterfly

The matching vocabulary words were:

  • Entomologist
  • Species
  • Elytra
  • Larva
  • Scientific Name
  • Proboscis
  • Pollination
  • Adaptation
  • Colony
  • Predator
  • Wingspan
  • Metamorphosis

I did notice the definition of "Adaptation" was given incorrectly, as "Special features developed over a long period of time." The correct definition is The process of being adapted (To make suitable to or fit for a specific use or situation). This is important for me since we teach creation-based science in our home, and with the creation mindset we view "adaptation" as a rapid process designed by God. I felt this was something to note, but not anything upsetting. My kids are pretty quick to pick up on discrepancies like this since we like to watch many science documentaries. It's a great springboard for discussion.

The third part of the show is the Review. This includes:

  1. Review Flashcards. These show the picture of each of the 11 insects covered and repeating the insect name twice.
  2. Review your Insects. Photo of each insect with multiple choice answers.
  3. Parts of an Insect. 
  4. Insect Facts. Reviewing a fact presented with with multiple choice answers of the different insects it could be. My kids quickly figured out these facts were presented in the same order as the insects were presented on the DVD, so they knew exactly which one would be the next right answer. It would have been less predictable if they had been mixed up. 
  5. Vocabulary Review. Presenting the vocabulary definitions with multiple choice answers.
My 7 year old had no trouble answering all of these. My 10 year old was the one who figured out the patterns.

Update: I also received an email from the folks at BrainFood Learning, and was excited to find out that they have developed free lesson plans to go with the videos. You can download those here. They include:

  • A two page lesson plan
  • A "circle the right word" quiz
  • An insect card sort (including full color photos)
  • Academic vocabulary quiz
  • Insects Quiz (multiple choice)
  • Big Words Quiz (multiple choice)
  • Answer Keys

What I liked:
  • This was a fairly well done short video for kids to get them interested in the world of insects. 
  • It fit really well with what my younger two had just been studying in science. 
  • The facts presented about each insect were interesting and different than the usual. 
  • It kept the kids attention.
  • Free lesson plans!

What I didn't like:
  • The music.
  • The evolutionary terminology. I found it in three different places.

Bottom Line:
This DVD is a great way to get kids (especially in the younger elementary grades) interested in the wide world of insects. There are a few places where evolutionary terminology creeps in, but it wasn't a major component. The images were colorful, and the review questions helped gauge how well the kids were paying attention. Overall I thought it was a fun show. 

Visit the Crew Blog to read other's thoughts on this DVD as well as two others:


©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif
*Prices and links are accurate at the time this is published, and are subject to change.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Home Made Hummus

This week we tried something I've been wanting to do for a while, make hummus. I'd bought the dry beans a while back and cooked them up, but I tossed the in the freezer because I didn't think I could pull it off. This week we have been enjoying all kids of great veggies from our bountiful baskets delivery, and I decided we might as well add home made hummus to the mix.

This recipe comes from HERE. (of course I've tweaked it.)

 2 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup water
3 Tbs. tahini
 1/4 cup lemon juice, or juice from one lemon
 1 teaspoon salt
 2 cloves garlic, halved
 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp cumin

Place the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic and cumin in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, adding olive oil as it blends. I also added a 1/4 cup water. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl.
Drizzle olive oil over the garbanzo bean mixture.

Now my biggest trouble is keeping the kids from eating it all!


©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cousins and Chickens and Flowers, oh my!

It was a really great weekend around here, so I thought I'd share a few pictures. The sweet spot of the weekend was the surprise flowers my hubby brought home "just because." :) Love him!

My cousin Andi and her boys came to visit this weekend, and we had a wonderful time hanging out with them. We enjoyed a nice picnic with Andi's crew, Grandma, my Aunt Becky, and Uncle Mark.Then we went for a hike at the Scotts Bluff National Monument, a good 3 mile loop.  They stayed over with us and headed home this morning.

Also today (Monday) we had a fun visitor, as a young lady doing research (for a college project) on the health of backyard chickens came by. She surveyed us about our chickens, and took all sorts of samples. I can't wait to read her paper! As you can imagine, I had no trouble babbling on and on about my chickens. Hehehe...

Well, the week is going to be busy too, but I will be sharing a few more reviews as well as next week's blog hop! After that we should have our county fair results, so stay tuned!

©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review: Global Art

 photo gr_zps4f060fb6.jpg
A great book we enjoyed reviewing this summer came from Gryphon House: Global Art. This book for kids of all ages appeals best to kids Pre-K to 5th grade. My 4th (going into 5th) grade daughter used it the most. It retails for $16.95 and has 190 pages.

We were so excited when this book came in for review, and used it almost daily. Even when we didn't have time for a project, the kids loved to read through the book for the interesting facts about the different cultures represented.

Each page is a different project, and the 7 chapters sort the project pages by the 7 Continents. Each art project either expresses the character of that continent, or is styled after the cultural art of that continent. There are 141 art projects in all:

  • 22 for Africa
  • 8 for Antarctica
  • 22 for Asia
  • 35 for Europe
  • 26 for North America
  • 10 for Australia/Oceania
  • 18 for South America
 photo GH_18827_zps7156a47e.jpg
At the top of each page are icons for quick reference. 
  1. The art technique icon quickly tells you what you will be doing, such as painting, sculpture, construction, drawing, collage, or printing. 
  2. The planning and preparation icon tells you how much prep is involved. This tells you how likely you are to have all the needed materials on hand, rating from 1 (common materials) to 3 (uncommon). 
  3. The difficulty icon is one to three stars, rating the difficulty of each project. 
Each project has a title with a descriptive subtitle, a materials list, and the process steps. Each one also has a globe showing where the project is from, and a "Did you know?" little fact about that place. There are also black and white illustrations on each page.

How we used it:

We used the instructions to complete several of the projects and found the instructions clear and easy to follow. We also found this was a great resource for any unit studies we did of other cultures. My kids were so excited about it that they involved their cousins in the craft time when they were over visiting. Everyone went home with a crystal watercolor painting (page 39)!

The girls had a great time making crowns from Korea and turning my oatmeal containers into decorated drums from the Ivory Coast. They pulled the book out regularly, and were able to do several projects without any help from me. One of my favorites was Tyler's carving he made from a bar of soap!

Bottom Line:
I love this crafty book. For the age range this is a fantastic reference for any school project, or for hammering home a culture in a unit study or a history/geography chapter. The price is very affordable for this book, considering it meets both social studies and art criteria, and can be used again and again. I would classify it more as arts and crafts than fine art, but overall a really fun book.

For more reviews of Global Art, as well as Homegrown Preschooler, visit the Crew Blog:


©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif
*Prices and links are accurate at the time this is published, and are subject to change.

Friday, July 26, 2013

School Year in Review: 1st Grade

*Affiliate links may be included in some posts, see my Disclosure tab above. *

Mayda was our 1st grader during the 2012-2013 school year. This year she really got into the enjoyment of reading, and even took on her first short chapter books. We used some books we already owned, and then during the second semester we used several provided by the TOS Review Crew. Mayda finished all of her work well before the 1st of May (started on Labor Day). She has been having a ball with the summer reading program, softball, and also getting ready for the 4H exhibits at the fair.

Click any image to view it on Amazon!

Here's my review of the 
books we used this year:

Mayda used Spectrum Phonics this year, which was a change for us. My older two had always used Christian Liberty Press Phonics, but I needed something quick and inexpensive. This was my first time using it, and I was very pleased. It has simple 2 page a day pace and she quickly worked through the basic phonics rules. The pages were well laid out and the pictures were colorful. It wasn't too easy, but she didn't struggle or cry about it. I would gladly use it again, and likely will with Wyatt.

From the website:
The lessons, perfect for students in grade 1, strengthen phonics skills by focusing on consonant blends, short and long vowel sounds, matching words, pairs, rhyming sounds, and more! Each book features full-color illustrations and provides essential tools for achieving reading fluency. They are also aligned to national and state standards and include a complete answer key. 

We used the American People and Nation from Christian Liberty Press for Mayda this year, as we had with Tyler and Emma when they were in 1st grade. All three kids found it a bit dry reading, but Mayda worked through it better than the other two. By next year I plan to find something different for Wyatt.  


Mayda had the opportunity to review ABeCeDarian Co.'s Student Workbook B1  This book is 24 lessons broken into 12 units. My biggest worry with her was that she is a sight reader. She glances at a word and knows what it is without reading it. She completely skipped the sounding-out-to-blending stage. She had memorized by sight SO many words that she seemed a great reader. But I know a time will come she will hit words she hadn't seen before, and be at a loss to know how to break them down. 

We loved this workbook because it makes her work with the sounds individually. The exercises where she sorts words into lists are really important. She is learning that several letter combinations can make the same sound, and is really slowing down to focus on them. 

Some other exercises had her focus on word lists where only one sound changes from one word to the next. This was actually really hard for her to identify, because of the way she had been reading. It is really breaking through the "code" that reading really is, helping her slow down and really put some muscle on her reading skills.  

Mayda read all of the storybooks, and loved them. Her excitement was really encouraging to Wyatt who is beginning to read the same books. She is also doing the workbook at the same pace of two lessons per week, breaking each lesson over two days. Although 6 pages in one sitting was not too much for her, the only thing she didn't like was that this was "work" compared to how she had been reading. I'm happy about this; she needed a challenge! Even though she tells me she doesn't like it, she chooses this subject to start with every day.  

Each day she pushed farther in the book than I asked her to do, and by the end of the review period we had picked up our pace to a lesson or more per day. I think initially we had moved more slowly through both books because I was struggling to absorb all the teaching materials. But as we used it more, the lessons became routines, and the kids became excited with the progress they were seeing.

At one of the local school closings, I had been really thankful to snag a copy of Addison Wesley Mathematics (Gr 1) for Mayda. We really liked the consumable workbook style and it put her well into the next level in Math skills. I'd use it again if I could find an affordable copy.

Mayda also had the chance to try out a copy of Math Rider (a computer math game) during a TOS review. It was a huge help to her basic math computation skills. She increased in her addition proficiency by 49% and her subtraction proficiency by 28%. 
Math Rider is a fun game that can easily help kids memorize their math facts quickly. It is easy to use, adapts to their needs, and rewards kids for mastering a function. There are magical elements to the story-line I don't appreciate, but the kids and I talked about those things and moved on, since the were only just part of the story, and not part of the game-play. I think all of my kids benefited from trying out Math Rider. Even I benefited from trying it out, having facts I knew, now on "rapid recall."

Mayda and Wyatt worked through this Science book together. My Father's World from Christian Liberty Press uses the days of creation as a chapter framework as they study creation as a whole. The activities are simple and there are questions to review at the end of each chapter. This one goes well with taking regular nature walks.

For Geography we used Continents and Oceans from Evan-Moor. It is the perfect introduction to basic Earth geography. This is an important subject for my kids and I love this book as a way to lead in.

From the description:
Volume 3 of Beginning Geography contains materials and projects to help children become familiar with the continents and major bodies of water on Earth. They are introduced to some facts about each continent, such as major mountain ranges, rivers, and indigenous animal species. Other exercises include naming the oceans and continents, and directions on a compass rose. There are reproducible animal, continent, and question cards for use in learning games such as Continent Concentration, Match Up, and Bean Bag Toss. Also features two-sided, full-color pull-out poster that has a map of the world on one side and a "Where in the world do they live?" animal quiz on the other side.
You get reproducible activity sheets, teacher resource pages, and cards. Complete step-by-step instructions for each project. All 16 pages perforated for easy removal. 

Mayda really enjoyed playing Go Fish with the Impressionist Artist cards from Birdcage Press. She very quickly memorized the names of 36 art pieces and picked out her favorites too. It was a fun way to get her interested in Art.

We also had a wonderful visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. We are currently reviewing a new book, Global Art, for the crew (review out soon!), and she has been enjoying doing a number of projects with it. 

Sometimes the disciples are the teachers, and this year I had a day like that with Mayda as we studied through our Bible curriculum, Studying God's Word "B" from Christian Liberty Press.

Here's an excerpt from my recent post about that. (please click through to read the whole story)

Two weeks ago. There was so much to do. It was a busy week, and it was my turn to cook for the Awana crowd. Tuesday's school lessons were a blur, but Mayda was motivated by something or other to get caught up. She was behind in Bible. Yes, the Bible curriculum that I had said I wasn't going to use; she really likes it. After failing to click with her two older siblings, this one clicks with her. The lesson that day was about sin. Not sin you commit, but the sin of omission. Knowing to do something and not doing it. I wanted to hurry through it, but she had figured out how to listen to the Bible readings on the smart phone... so she looked them up, and we read Matthew 25:31-46. We talked about what it means to serve Christ through serving others, and how a heart obedient to Him will follow His leading. Mayda pondered that for a bit and she said, "I want to bake some bread."
. . . Mayda and I went on through to the kitchen where the woman was sitting, and she was completely taken by surprise. I told her how Mayda had wanted to bake her bread. She turned to her grandson and then back to me, and gesturing to the crust of bread on the counter, said:
"I just told him this morning that I was going to need to order more bread!"
We exclaimed together that God had heard, and placed an order with Mayda, who was beaming now (but hiding behind me out of shyness). She wanted to pay her, but Mayda told her it was a gift. I couldn't have been more proud of my girl.
And in my heart I was humbled. How many times have I had the thought to minister to someone: to drop someone a note, or to give a quick call? Did I do it?
I have been given a mission field, and it is here. And I have so far to go, in teaching them... and I will begin with the lesson of listening. Listening to that still small voice that prompts us to love, and to be the love of Christ. In our home. In our community. In our world.
Even if that lesson came from a child, a good humbling, and a a few loaves of bread.

AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, taken from 2 Timothy 2:15:

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

The best part of the Awana format is that it teaches Biblical truths with Scripture memorization to back it up. I want my kids to know what they believe, and the Biblical basis for "WHY?" as well.

I am really proud of Mayda as she finished her 2nd Sparks book with enough time to go through it completely again for a review. Of all the Sparks, only a handful did this. It was awesome.

Overall Mayda had a great year and is looking forward to the 2nd grade this fall. 



©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Reading Program

What did your family do to beat the heat this summer? We used books! Every afternoon when it got too hot to be out and about we would come into the cool house and read. The kids would read to Wyatt until he fell asleep for his nap, and then they would each retreat to their own books for the next couple of hours. It was bliss. :)
Sign up Day!

We had a blast with our local library summer reading program. The kids were really excited to earn all the fun prizes that came with each level of books read. They had all kinds of fun with the "dig into reading" theme. :) Our library does it up so well that there is a line on sign up day! (see above picture).

All total:
  • Tyler read 105 books
  • Emma read 130 books
  • Mayda read 80
  • Wyatt read (or had read to him) 56
They earned free stuff from:
and Dairy Queen 
to name a few. :)

Tonight I attended a free DSLR photography class at our library too. 
Yes, our library rocks.

This Tuesday I'll be joining in a Blog Cruise with the TOS Crew on the topic of "Beat the Heat"! 
Would you join us?


©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WW: A walk in the garden

Mid July

rhubarb seeds

Early July

Wordless Wednesday on Only Passionate Curiosity

©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, July 22, 2013

New Spanish Course Available! Discount for my readers!

As you may remember back in May we reviewed Spanish for You: Fiestas. We loved the curriculum and plan to use it all this next school year for the kids to learn Spanish. I had the opportunity to chat with the author via email and she was excited to tell me that aside from Fiestas (a party themed unit) and  Estaciones, (a seasonally themed unit), she is now releasing Viajes, a travel themed unit!

Click here for sample pages!

I am not an paid affiliate of Spanish for You, and haven't received anything in exchange for writing this post. I was really impressed with it when I reviewed it, so I wanted to tell you, my readers about it. Debbie, the author, also values my readers. That is why she is offering a 10% off coupon code to you for the purchase of this new unit.

  • For the package for grades 3-4, use this code: newviajes34
  • For the package for grades 5-6, use this code: newviajes56
  • For the package for grades 7-8, use this code: newviajes78
  • For the package for grades 3-8, use this code: newviajes38

You can read my entire review of Fiestas here, but this was the bottom line:
"I would wholeheartedly recommend this one for beginner Spanish! I absolutely love that you can buy one book and, with the whole package, be able to teach every grade in your homeschool from 3rd -8th! I'm not good at prep work, but this was not as bad as I had feared. Other than collating pages and laminating flash cards, there wasn't too much prep, since the lesson plans were all written out."
If you check it out, please comment here and let me know what you think! Thanks!

©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...