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Teaching Textbooks

Making Sea Fans and Coral Reefs

Otherwise known as the Great Ocean Biome Diorama.

Say that ten times fast and you’ll have a great sum-up of my week.

Laurianna has been studying about different biomes and she had to choose one biome and make a diorama of it ~ she chose saltwater.

Rather than having everything be flat and just a cut-out we decided to have a little fun and thought you might like to see how to make a few quick and simple 3-D underwater specimens of your own.

What You’ll need:

~ needlepoint canvas
~ orange paint & a brush {or color you choose to make your sea fan}
~ orange {or other color} pipe cleaner
~ scissors
~ newspaper.

Make the Sea Fan:

1. Cut the needlepoint canvas in the shape that you would like your sea fan to be (a tree shape). The shape doesn’t have to be exact – they’re all different. :)

2. Paint the canvas orange {use the newspaper to protect your surface} and let it dry.

3. When the canvas is dry, use the pipe cleaner to make ‘branches’ and a ‘trunk’ on the canvas.

What You’ll Need:

~ playdough or modeling clay
~ paint and a paint brush
~ radiatore pasta {small ruffled and ridged shaped pasta}
~ newspaper

Make the Coral Reef:

1. Form a ball with your playdough or modeling clay and flatten it just a little bit. Size will vary based on either your diorama size or what you are making it for. Our balls were about 2 inches in diameter.

2. Press the pasta into the clay to create a ‘brain-like’ pattern.

3. Paint your coral mass and let it dry!


{A few other notes}

~ The shark ‘swims’ across the sea. He is glued to a popsicle stick and travels along a slit at the top of the box.

~ We used blue tissue paper as our water and half a sheet of sandpaper as our ocean floor.

~ Laurianna drew fish, crabs, jellyfish and the shark to decorate her diorama. The fish are hanging by a clear sewing thread from the top of the box. We also used shells and coral that we found on the beach to decorate it a little more.

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Apologia: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day

Several months ago we took a trip to the Museum of Natural History with our girls. During our time there I grew more and more irritated looking at what my tax dollars were paying to teach other children. Watching people gape at a little bronze rat, ‘our earliest ancestor’, made me sick to my stomach and I returned home with a renewed passion to instill a deep understanding of Creation and a love for its Creator in our children.

I asked a friend of mine about different science curriculums and she recommended the Young Explorer Series from Apologia to me. Before I even had a chance to do much research on the company, I received their book Flying Creatures on the Fifth Day to review – a complete and total blessing! We started working through the book a few weeks later and can say that this is a curriculum series we will continue to use in the years to come.

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day is the first book in the Apologia’s Young Explorers series on zoology. It is a creation-based curriculum using a Charlotte Mason approach for learning. Students are encouraged to notebook along with their studies. The text is written directly to children, targeted toward children ages 6 to 13. In Flying Creatures

“…children will begin exploring the dynamics of flight and animal classification, understanding why the design we see in these incredible creatures points us to our Creator God.

Then, get ready for the exciting adventure of learning about birds. Your children will learn how to attract various bird species to your yard and identify them by looking at their special physical characteristics, diverse nests, and interesting domestic practices.

They will also learn the anatomy and the glorious design that enables birds to do remarkable things. After becoming amateur ornithologists, your children will explore the world of chiropterology, which is the study of bats.“

Flying Creatures provides 14 lessons packed full of information (you can view lesson one here). The lessons can seem overwhelming at first, but they recommend breaking each chapter/lesson up into segments. Once lesson one is completed you can continue with the remaining lessons in any order you choose. If the weather is warm in your area, you can study insects or whenever it is convenient for you.

Our girls were a little overwhelmed when they first saw the book, but we have been slowly working our way through the first chapter and they are picking up so much! We are notebooking and lapbooking along with our learning to record what we have been talking about. Their favorite part has been learning about how animals are classified and learning the meme to go along with the classification system: “Kings play chess on fine glass sets.” The first letter in each word matches the first letter in the words of the classification groups: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species. And you know the girls think they are too smart now that they know all of those!

Some things I love about the book:

  • Projects and experiments ~ Each lesson includes different hands-on experiments and projects to do with your children. The experiments generally use common household items. The book provides a list of the items needed for all the experiments for quick reference also. Each lesson generally provides several things to try.
  • Notebooking – Each lesson provides notebooking activities so that your child can keep a record of what they are learning in the lessons.
  • A full year on a focused subject – Rather than just touching on the subject of ‘God made birds’ the curriculum spends the entire year on one subject, allowing children to do more than just scratch the surface of the subject

If you would like more information on Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, there are several pdfs available for viewing online: the table of contents, an introduction to the book, a course overview, notebooking examples, lesson examples, zoology flashcards, and lab information.

Apologia also has other books available in the Young Explorers series focused on astronomy, botany, swimming creatures and land animals. There is also a great Yahoo group for Apologia that focuses on the elementary science books by Jeannie Fulbright where I have found some great resources ans answers to questions. If you have older children, be sure to check out the other science options that Apologia offers too.

Click on the Homeschool Crew banner to read other reviews
about this book and others available from Apologia.

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All About Homophones

A few months ago I reviewed a program All About Spelling by Marie Rippel. One that I will be using for years to come with our kiddos.

I am that much in love with the program.

Needless to say, I was thrilled beyond measure when they sent me a second product of theirs to review called All About Homophones: Your Complete Tool Kit. This is an amazing resource to help teach your children homophones quickly and easily (homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently…be/bee, sea/see, etc…).

All About Homophones comes with homophone worksheets, games and activities, and includes over 200 pages of teaching tools and resources for you to help teach your child about homophones. The graphics alone in the book are wonderful and the curriculum itself is even better!

My girls have loved playing card games such as Go Fish!, Pig, Old Maid and more to help in learning the different words and their meanings. The information is presented in such a fun and interactive way that the girls forgot we were doing school – and to me, that’s what learning is really all about!

Everything that you need for All About Homophones is included in the book you receive: reproducible pages for the card games, worksheets, graphic organizers, crossword puzzles, student record sheets, grade-level lists, teaching plans, and more! You can purchase a softcover printed copy ($19.95) or an ebook version ($17.95).

And if you haven’t heard about All About Spelling, check out my earlier review about their curriculum. The All About Homophones Tool Kit comes with a money-back guarantee too – 30 days, no questions asked. I’ll leave you with this fun translation from the homophone machine:

“Awl About Homophones is a grate tulle

two ewes inn you’re school thyme.”


See? Even I am having too much fun with it!

All About Spelling Review – Homeschool Spelling Tool

We received this product at no cost in exchange for our honest review. All opinions expressed are solely mine.

I thought we were perfectly fine with the spelling program that we were using until I started using All About Spelling with the girls. Now I’m hooked on this homeschool spelling program and thrilled that our kids look forward to spelling time and we love doing it together. We have worked our way through level one and will be starting level two soon.

Each lesson book in All About Spelling comes with a materials packet that includes: flashcards, index card dividers, tokens, progress charts, a completion certificate, and other tools to help you teach. The program also uses letter tiles that can be used in all six levels. The letter tiles are not included in the material pack of each level (so that you wouldn’t have six sets). They can be purchased separately for $12.95.

All About Spelling teaches “phonograms” – letter combinations that are the base for building words (a cd-rom of the sounds is also available for purchase if you would like to hear the exact sounds of each phonogram).

What I am loving about the program:

  1. The lessons are amazingly easy to follow: Step-by-step directions are given for each lesson in the level, including all the materials that you will need for the lesson.
  2. You can customize each lesson to your children’s needs. We went through the early lessons rather quickly and then paced the lessons at a rate that was comfortable for us.
  3. Review: Each lesson includes a way to review the steps and rules that have been taught in previous lessons, along with reinforcement for the lessons that were learned during that lesson.
  4. Hands-on materials: The program uses letter tiles that you can make magnetic to spell out the words and sounds that you are practicing. There are also flashcards included in the set along with the teacher’s manual. This hands-on aspect has really helped in our learning.
  5. Clear/direct spelling rules: All About Spelling teaches clear rules (and notes any exceptions if there are any to the rule) – even I’m learning a thing or two!
  6. It will be a complete curriculum from preschool to high school. It’s a one-stop spelling curriculum, and I LOVE that!
  7. Price!! Both the level one and level two sets are only $29.95 each and can be used in the years to come with younger children since the materials are not consumable (a HUGE plus for me!). Levels three and four are $39.95. If you are teaching more than one student at a time, you can order additional materials packets (for around $12.95 each).

There is nothing that I haven’t been pleased about with this curriculum – seriously! If you are interested in learning more about how to teach using All About Spelling, know that they a 100% learning satisfaction guarantee. This is definitely a program that we will be using through the years with our kids!

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This All About Spelling Review was written based on our personal use of the program. I was provided the program to review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Volcano Lapbook and Unit Study

Volcanoes were top on the list of things to study when the girls found out that Mt. Fuji was actually a volcano. We decided to work together on a lapbook from Homeschool Share. Lapbook components that we studied and used were: parts of a volcano, volcanologist, who’s going to blow, trivia game, inside a volcano, exploding volcano (scholastic pull-tab), volcano phases, vocabulary words, ring of fire, types of rocks, and the earth’s plates.

Our “art” project was to build our own volcano. The kids were far too excited to see how it would explode in our backyard.


On Monday we made some salt dough and formed a volcano using a tea bottle and a cardboard box. I based the model we made from this one that I found through a google search.

The dough took a few days to dry, so on Wednesday we were able to paint it together. I outlined a few areas for the girls and they worked together to paint it to make it look more like a scene/cutaway of a volcano. When they were done with the base painting, they let Mommy drip red paint around the ledge of the volcano to make it look like lava was dripping down the sides of the mountain.

Here is our completed project in action. Be warned: Screaming toddler and swinging lens cap may disrupt your viewing pleasure.

Volcano links for kids:

Caterpillar Changing to Chrysalis

A friend of ours recently gave us four caterpillars to watch grow and change over the next few weeks. Today alone we were able to watch three of them turn from caterpillar into their beautiful chrysalis. If I get a chance I will try to post some video of it soon, but for now, this picture montage will have to do.