Louisiana: Johnette Downing books

For whatever reason my library has about 10 books by this author for Louisiana.  They all have great voice and flair to them.  They also have a very distinctive illustration style.  It’s a variation of collage artwork, a sort of cut work that is very appealing, and lends itself easily to art projects.

We used two of her books for art projects: “Down in the Bayou,” and “Chef Creole,” both were different projects.
Forgive the quality of the pictures, I forgot my camera at home, and we did this at a friend’s house.

For “Chef Creole” I gave them a bin of various pre-cut out shapes I made using various hole punches I have.  If you don’t have hole punches, just go crazy before hand randomly cutting out things.
This was a big hit and I’m looking forward to trying it again with just my kids and letting them use the punches with A LOT of supervision (mainly because I don’t want them dropped on toes, OUCH!).

Project 2 was using “Down in Louisiana,” it’s a fun counting book, and I made a small booklet with about 5 pages and gave them a stack of pictures for the animals in it from clip art images.

Their instructions were to draw the background with markers and then glue on the pictures.

This wasn’t as popular, they just wanted to cut and glue.
Either way I highly recommend these books, especially for the early elementary/preschool set.  They were wildly popular with all of the kids, and mine haven’t let me return these to the library yet.

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Review: All American History Jr.

Apparently I never actually posted this, which would explain some people’s confusion on my saying we’d switched curriculum, and everyone should know this.  Instead it’s sat in my draft folder for about 3 months now.

Some days.

So, I commented before that I had mixed feelings on our history for the year, and they grew more frustrated as I realized my kids were not really getting anything out of it and the amount of prep work in printing was frustrating me.

After I’d ordered what we were using I saw All American History Jr, and was intrigued, but I didn’t want to look into it too much in case I got curriculum envy, you know where everyone else’s stuff looks better than yours.

I finally gave in and ordered it, and I wish I’d done so sooner.  Since this one starts at the same place as the last one, I figured I’ll go back and start over and then we can actually learn it.

So, what do I think of this one?

I LOVE IT!  Here’s why:

1.  I’m not having to print off the textbook, and it’s a hardback, so it’s sturdy.
2.  The lesson plans are a lot more thorough.
3.  The “workbook” portion is a lot less printer intense.  You can see samples here.  The line spacing is perfect for my kids.  The amount of writing expected per day is working perfectly.  It’s got some amount of crafts.
4.  They give you a modified reading plan for younger kids.  Instead of reading the whole chapter you only read a smaller part, and it is broken down into great segments.
5.  They give you a day by day plan of what to do, and some days are so easy you can do two at once.
6.  There are hands on crafts, which you can guess we LOVE!
7.  I love the additional suggestion activities.  When we learned about Eric the Red, they suggested watching “Lyle the Kindly Viking,” and compare what you learned about Vikings with the movie.  SCORE!
8.  Fun coloring pages.
9.  There’s a lapbook part that you can either let the kids fill in, or for younger kids there is a pre-filled in version that you can cut and paste together.
10.  I don’t have to buy 3 workbooks for my 3 kids because this is a download

1.  This is only for me, but we were about halfway through the material covered in this book already, so to really get my use out of it, I had to start over.
2.  They recommend getting the teacher’s manual for the older kids, and I think you could really get away with not having that.
3.  Lots of paper and ink to print it all off.
4.  You need to keep track of little pieces of paper for a while because all of the pictures for a quarter are all together (I’ve solved this by paper clipping it to the textbook where we’re reading.).


The other mom and I have already decided we’re using All American History 2 next year, so obviously we LOVE it!  I only wish there were a lapbooking/notebooking thing like this for Mystery of History.

Spies in the American Revolution or Secret Treasure Hunt

Treasure hunt
This past week for our history coop we learned about spies and secret messages sent during the American Revolution.

To start off the younger kids decoded a simple symbol substitution, which was incredibly easy, but very much enjoyed.  For the older kids we did this worksheet, which was quite a bit harder.

While they were busy doing that I set out the secret messages.

To make the treasure hunt it’s very simple.  Decide the order of the clues, so I knew where it was being put I wrote on the back.  On the front I wrote the clue for where the next place was in pencil.

All of the kids enjoyed the treasure hunt, I’d show you a picture of the “treasure,” but they descended on it too fast and had devoured it before I got there.

Afterwards they got to have a try at writing in invisible ink (AKA lemon juice).  Later we’re going to try revealing what they wrote.  I’m hoping to be more successful than the last time we tried this.

It’s hopefully going to work well.

Science Sunday: shells, really the last one

Science Sunday

I just heard about a linky sponsored by Apologia Science, so I’m gonna link this up to Homeschool Science Show and Tell!

This activity comes from my Swimming Creatures pinterest board.  Over at the Crafty Classroom she put together a great sea shell printable identifying them to the best of her ability.  I tried to look for some others to add to my collection, but didn’t find any.  Does anybody know of any other shell printables?
We went through our shells and slowly sorted them into the different types.  We ran into several which didn’t quite fit the pictures we had, so at that point it got into our best guess.

This is a great way to talk about classification and the minor differences you can find in things.
What makes this one a whelk and this one a conch shell?

Of course eventually it turned into a boys versus girls thing.  That didn’t go over quite so well because both boys would pick the same type of shell and say, “This is ____________ (fill in the blank of a child’s name they know) and he’s part of the boy group.  There’s more boys than girls.”

Yeah, and that would be when I ended that activity.

However, the concept is still sound, and they are still talking about it a few weeks later, so I guess over all it was a win.

Fantastic Five did a fun activity making their own constellations, she based it off a similar constellation post from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational.  It was fun to see someone doing what someone else had linked up to Science Sunday!

Alex Nguyen Portraits had a fun experiment of How many pieces of styrofoam can fit in the can?  You have to go there to see the fun twist she had in it.

So, I guess in the end it was a mixed result.  Sigh………


Harry Potter night!

I Harry Potterwould link this up over at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns, but I’m not sure it counts if I read it to them………..

We finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and as promised watched the movie together.

And this time I actually made fancy snacks!  Go me!
Pretzel sticks dipped in candy coating and then sugar sprinkled on them.

Harry Potter Movie night
Colby Jack cheese cut into stars.
Harry Potter movie night
Gummy bears, spice drops, and jelly beans (in a bag saved from when the first movie came out, ages ago).  The spice drops were deemed “too spicy,” and the jelly belly jelly beans were turned their nose up at (I forgot I’m the only one in my family who likes jelly beans).

Hopefully I’ll have more time to plan ahead, as in not 2 hours, and I’ll be able to actually find something more like “chocolate frogs,” for the second movie.

All of this equaled three happy kids.

We’re thinking after book 3 we’ll stop until they’re older and more able to handle the scarier themes in the last 4 books.  Any suggestions of other books to read aloud?

Quick reading or spelling tip


As I’ve mentioned several times before we’re using All About Reading level 1.  One of the big components of the program is spelling out the words and then reading them.  They recommend using spelling tiles, and I posted an earlier tip how we use ours with velcro and that was working for us.

That’s still working for us.  But, my new tip is to sometimes take a break from that and write it using dry erase markers.  If you don’t have a dry erase board you can use a mirror or window and it will wipe off just as well.

Right now this is the most commonly requested method to review our reading.

American Revolution: Steps to War

We restarted our American history this semester, after much debating between my friend and I, but we really like how this one teaches it, and it had projects my kids could more easily do.

These past few weeks we’ve been looking at the steps to war.
The British government declared the American colonists were not allowed to move past the Appalachian mountains.  This angered many people who were looking to move out of the “crowded” East coast (imagine what they’d think of now!).
A high tariff was put on all imports and exports.  That’s why this needed such a scary ship to represent this.
They put a tax on sugar!  My kids all agreed this was terrible.

They started housing soldiers in people’s homes (this angered the people so much you’ll notice this is one of the first 10 amendments).

They taxed all paper and official documents.  My kids really didn’t see why this was so annoying.
And finally, or at least all I got pictures of, they put a tax on TEA!  Oh the horrors!  I can tell you in our house we would be paying quite a high tax on that.  We go through quite a lot.

This really helped them get the reasons.  I could tell they were remembering it because this was actually done over quite a few days.  Yeah for remembering! learning ALL the time!!

Linking up over at All Things Beautiful.

Louisiana: Mardi Gras


“Mardi Gras” is a great book about the holiday and how it is celebrate particularly in New Orleans.


It approaches this holiday at a kid level and gives a fair amount of background.  I loved how well it covered how New Orleans celebrates it and I learned all sorts of things.  It made me want to go to New Orleans to see Mardi Gras, and then the other mom who was with me burst my bubble.  Apparently it’s a higher crime rate then and most locals just stay off the streets as much as possible.


I guess I always picture it sort of like this:

Well, after reading the book we made our own Mardi Gras masks in the traditional colors of purple, green, and yellow.


I found these great masks at First Palette and printed them off on cardstock.

Then I turned them loose to make it.

Mardi Gras masksMardi Gras masks008

All we need to add now is a ribbon to tie it on.  I also want to applaud myself for not making it too over the top in effort and overthinking it.


At the time of picture taking Princess didn’t have hers done, but she’s since gotten it done.


Oh, and in case you’re wondering the boys masks are superhero masks.

Louisiana: Ol’ Bloo’s Boogie Woogie Band and Blue’s Ensemble


“Ol’ Bloo’s” is a fun retelling of “Bremen’s Town Musicians.”  If you’re not familiar with the tale, it’s about 4 old animals who are about to be “put out to pasture,” and decide instead decide to take off into the wide world and become traveling musicians.


The kids thought it was hilarious, and they laughed throughout the whole book, especially when they got to make the noises of the animals.


After we read the story we watched Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” from Fantasia 2000 to get the idea of what blues music is like.



After watching it we talked about how the cartoon was drawn mostly in blue, and the style of drawings.  Then I challenged them to draw a picture using many different shades of blue and media styles.  It could be inspired by the cartoon or the book.


They had access to markers, crayons, colored pencils, and watercolor pencils.  My kids only used the watercolor pencils, but the others tried different media.


End results: two inspired by the book with the animals, and two of soldiers………  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions of who drew the soldiers.

Science Sunday: How to age bivalves

This was going to be the last shell post, and then I realized I had a bit more to tell you about.


With bivalves as they get older they add new ridges.  This particular shell has an excellent example of it.  You can see the ridges very clearly.  We went through the different bivavles and looked to see if we could guess how old it was.  I thought at first that it was supposed to be one ridge per year, but that doesn’t make sense for how long they live.


I did some quick searches, but the best I could find is the thickness of the ridge is dependent on what sediment is in the area.  The thicker the ridge, the better the protection.


I had planned after this discussion to make our own “pearls,” using play dough, but discovered all of our play dough was dry hard rocks.  So, we left that part of our lesson out.


Here’s a few of the fun things shared this past week:

Winecup Christian Academy shared a fun solar system mobile.


An experiment gone wrong from Creekside Learning, you had to read her post it’s hilarious.

The Usual Mayhem has a recipe for troll boogers to go with a Harry Potter study (we’re almost done reading book 1, we are done reading it).  Now I just need to figure out a fun unit to go with the book.