Carnival of the Animals

We have been working through The Gift of Music by Jan Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson this year for homeschool when Camille Saint-Saens came up.  I’ve personally never heard of this guy (like quite a few other composers from this book).

We always get a sample of their music from the library and if we’re lucky a biography for kids or two.

Well, during an online search of my local library, I found a gem of a book entitled Carnival of the Animals put together by Barrie Carson Turner, which illustrates this classic tale and has an accompanying CD.

The Carnival of Animals is Saint-Saens most famous work and it was written when his students asked him to compose a musical joke for them.  Saint-Saens matches animals such as the kangaroo, lion, roosters, mules, and tortoises to music beautifully as they parade through a carnival.  The total time of the composition is only 23 minutes with only about 2-4 minutes for each animal, which is perfect listening time for a child.

Many times I get musical compositions from the library and they are long and tedious. Not so here.  With the textbook to explain to children what the composer is trying to accomplish, why the author chose a particular instrument to play a certain part, and pictures to delight this book is sure to introduce children to the wonderful world of classical music and spawn a desire to learn more.

Review of Artistic Pursuits

Introductory Note:  I purchased this on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

Artistic Pursuits is an art program put together by a homeschooling Mom.  This is a review for Grades K-3 Book.

My kids love art as all children do and I have been well pleased with this book.  It offers lessons that pertain to history so we do those lessons as we discuss those historical areas.  It also offers lessons on different aspects of art such as what artists do or see.  I particularly like the historical background and the paintings covered in this book.  It was definitely unexpected and a welcome addition to my curriculum.

On their website you can order their pre-packaged bundle which comes with all the art supplies you need.  I ordered the supplies from one of their links so I could customize it to what I needed and didn’t need.

Art as most of us know is pricey.  It is for public schools as well.  But the kids love it and it is so good for them to express themselves in different mediums.

There are 5 levels from preschool through high school that focuses on different areas.

Conclusions:  Overall great job on educating the student on art and how it pertains to history.  It covers the basics as well.  I am not interested in perfect form or drawing lessons per se since I doubt my kids well be the next Picasso so this book fit well for our needs.

I am unsure if I will continue with this next year.  I like it but I want to focus more on famous artists and am considering the Core Knowledge area as well.  There are some Medieval Lessons in this book that I will save for next year however.  Highly recommend.

Review of Latin for Children: Primer A

Introductory Note:  I purchased this on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

We just started this after completing Song School Latin (see review HERE) and we love it!  Written by Dr. Aaron Larsen & Dr. Christopher Perrin for Classical Academic Press whose motto is “Classical Subjects Creatively Taught” this begins the first of many levels through the high school level offered by them.

I invested in their bundled package of the Primer A textbook, activity book, and DVD/CD offerings.

The DVD features kids reciting all the vocabulary as well as the CD.  They expect more from the kids, memorizing 10 Latin vocabulary words per week.  Conjugations are included as well as Endings and Grammar.

The Activity Book is what my kids love best.  Although not in color, the activities are fun and reinforcing for the week.

Their website has tons of support materials including fun videos, supplemental materials, and more vocabulary reinforcement.

In my opinion you cannot have a classical education without the classical languages.   I believe the benefits in teaching the classical languages are much more important than other subjects.

Conclusions:  I cannot help but be impressed with this company.  I have always had quick responses to email questions, no problems ordering online, and the content is top-notch.  I am grateful every day that someone has finally decided to form a company that focuses on the fundaments of 150 years ago in terms of education.  Their values line up with mine perfectly.

They also offer a Spanish program, Bible curriculum, Logic, and much more–things I will consider in the future.

Many companies offer a Latin program (thankfully) so you have a lot to choose from.  I have discovered CAP and I am sticking with them.  Their formula is fun and engaging for my kids and they are learning things I never had the opportunity to learn in school.

Gratefully, God has given me another chance and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Review of Rosetta Stone Latin America

Introductory Note:  I purchased this on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

I knew before we even started homeschooling I wanted to try Rosetta Stone for my family.  I had heard so much about it and it always gets great reviews.

So I broke down and invested in all 5 years.  It was a lot to cough up ($459 I paid but it appears the price has risen) but it offered a savings over the years and I looked at it as that.

Rosetta Stone is all immersion.  They believe in teaching you like you learned as a baby:  hearing it and mimicking the sounds.  You listen and then choose based off of what you’ve heard.  There is a written portion as you go along and it does appear on the screen.

I like this approach for my kids but I find myself explaining a lot of what they are doing.  I explain the grammar side and I feel as an adult I would be curious to know what I was speaking.

For instance, they do not go over the endings.  This annoys me because I would like my kids to know.  But Rosetta Stone emphasizes learning to speak, not how the language is put together.  I’m hoping this comes into play in the upper levels.

But my kids are young.  I want them to hear the language correctly (since I have a horrible accent) and learn that way.  There will be time in the later years when they are ready.

I bought the homeschool edition which comes with extra practice worksheets and a guide for parents.  It also tracks your child’s progress so you can review their scores at the end of each lesson.  You can set up different users that saves where you have stopped individually.  This is great if you have kids working at different levels.  You also don’t have to remember where you stopped!

The worksheets provided I have to do with my kids.  They are too young to do them on their own.  But great practice seeing Spanish written.

Each chapter reviews the previous chapter’s work.

Conclusions:  I think this is a great investment for the younger years.  This allows my kids to focus on English and Latin Grammar before we switch to Spanish Grammar.  With Spanish being so prevalent I believe teaching this is essential and the younger years is the place to begin while they are still absorbing everything.

My husband wants to use this for his work and I see us using this program for years to come.  A lot of money but worth it if you are seeking the spoken word.  They also offer a Latin and Greek program but I am hesitant to invest as it’s emphasis is on speaking and the value in Latin and Greek is on grammar and vocabulary work.

Review of Song School Greek

Introductory Note:  I purchased this on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

Since I had experience with Song School Latin I thought I’d try Song School Greek by Michelle Hahne.  I looked into Hey Andrew!  Teach Me Some Greek! but I had experience with Classical Academic Press (the company that produces this stuff) and admire them so I ordered this.

Now I understand the saying, “It’s all Greek to me.”

Greek is NOTHING like English.  Ok, so it is.  But compared to Latin, Greek is completely foreign to me.

I struggled with Song School Greek for a whole month before I broke down and bought the Teacher’s Edition.

The Teacher’s Edition comes with a viewable CD that introduces each chapter’s vocabulary so you can see how it’s pronounced.  I watch this alongside my kids at the beginning of each chapter.

It is set up much like Song School Latin with 4-5 vocabulary words each week, all set to music, and reinforcement activities.

Now we are progressing but it is not easy to say the least.  We finally have the alphabet memorized and will work on the numbers next.

I did not purchase the Greek Alphabet Code Cracker which helps children learn the Greek alphabet because I did want something more meaty.  In hindsight, this might have been a better place to jump in and I did consider purchasing it when we were struggling but I felt I had made my choice and I should stick with it a bit longer.

Conclusions:  Unlike Latin, there is not as much out there to choose from for Greek.  Learning Greek is definitely not for the feint-of-heart.  But I love it!  Absolutely love it!

Classical Academic Press does offer one more course after this but that is it.  I was told more is in production but it probably be too late for my kids.  But I will buy it when the time comes and pray more becomes available in this definitely under-utilized market.

Review of Song School Latin

Introductory Note:  I purchased this on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

My kids actually were introduced to Song School Latin by Amy Rehn and published by Classical Academic Press during their year in charter school.  However, they didn’t finish it so I bought it and did two chapters in one week and we finished right before Christmas.

It comes with a CD with all the vocabulary on it so you can hear the pronunciation, all set to music.  My kids love singing along.

In each chapter only 4 or 5 vocabulary words are introduced so after listening to the CD and completing the exercises the vocabulary became easy to master.

I did not buy the teacher’s edition as I don’t feel you need it for such an easy level.  The answers are easily found in the chapter.

Classical Academic Press has a great bonus website for extras pertaining to their curriculum including color sheets and other goodies.

Conclusions:  This is a great introduction for younger children to Latin.  It’s fun, easy, and has great illustrations.  The songs are catchy.  This book makes it easy to teach Latin as well for those hesitant to try.

If you are thinking of trying Latin, try this first before you dive into a more in-depth approach.  Latin can be fun and the crew at Classical Academic Press have found that balance.

Review of MapTrek’s Atlas and Outline Maps of World History

Introductory Note:  I purchased all of these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

As most of you know, I’m a visual person and I love maps.  I have to know where everything is/was when learning about locations.  So I looked into finding blackline maps for my kids for history study.

Terri Johnson’s MapTrek program (offered through her company Knowledge Quest) is one of the few out there that won’t break the bank.  I bought all 4 years (Ancient Times through Modern Times) called the Complete Collection, both the print book and the CD.

I like MapTrek but a lot of the maps are redundant if  you also purchase the Activity Book for Story of the World (SOTW) by Susan Wise Bauer.  She actually uses some of Mrs. Johnson’s maps in her book as well.

However, I like the detail of MapTrek’s maps better but I usually use SOTW’s because it’s already printed and saves on paper.  If you buy the activity book I would say you don’t need MapTrek.

I also purchased Knowledge Quest’s Timeline Map of Ancient History which is awesome!  I love being able to see the highlights and if I forget something I just run over to the wall and the date is right there.

Conclusions:  Great products by a homeschooling mom herself at reasonable rates.  Quick timeframe on answering emails.  Time saver when it comes to map work during history/geography lessons.

Review of The Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times

Introductory Note:  I purchased all of these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

I have loved everything about this series by Susan Wise Bauer so far.

Affectionately known as SOTW, this series is perfect for the younger kids.  The book is written in short sections at the child’s level with just enough simple drawings that my 4 year old will listen.

I also purchased the activity book which my kids LOVE!  It’s their favorite part of history.  They love doing the maps and the other suggested activities.  We mainly do the worksheets and rarely do the projects just because we have a full day as it is and don’t have the time.  I always look  up the selected reading lists at my library to read to my kids which helps to shift through what’s good and what’s not out there especially when studying Egypt, Greece, and Rome of which there are volumes of information.

I have skipped around and added a few sections here and there but overall this hits the highlights of the ancient world that everyone should know.  There will be time later for in-depth study the next go-around.

I also purchased The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia for use for 4 years of study as well as Usborne’s Encyclopedia of the Ancient World both of which I use extensively.

Conclusions:  Along with library books this is a great spine for History.  I’m looking forward to Volume 2: The Middle Ages next year!

Review of Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals

Introductory Note:  I purchased this on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

I purchased Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer more out of curiosity than anything else (and indecision of course).  I love dictation and thought this would be great to read her opinions on the subject.

Since I am doing a separate writing, grammar, and spelling program, I used this book mainly for the dictation and narration.  I did Year 1 and 2 in about 3 months, stopped, and moved onto something else.  I will probably do Year 3 & 4 at the beginning of next year.

Ms. Bauer states this book will teach your child to write.  Here we diverge.

Here’s my honest opinion:  I think this book is too easy.  I think Ms. Bauer underestimates what children are capable of.  My first-grader does narration and dictation with no problem.  She is also writing on her own and being taught how to put sentences together, parts of a sentence, conjugation, etc.  I think this book coddles and does not challenge the average student. I believe we should expect more.

You definitely do not need the workbook unless  you want something already pre-planned.  I chose dictation exercises from all of our curriculum.

Conclusions:  I could have done without this book but since I bought it I used it and will keep it for future reference.  However, I continue to believe Ms. Bauer’s writing program is too easy.  I’m a fan of her history but not writing/english.

Review of Kumon Math Workbooks

Introductory Note:  I purchased all of these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

I was looking for additional math fact practice and didn’t want to spend the time, effort, energy, and money in printing out my own off the Internet.

So I found Kumon.

These books are great and are cheap off of Amazon.

I purchased the Addition and Subtraction for Grade 1 and 2.  Both are filled with problems that teaches in a progressive manner, introducing one concept at a time, practicing it, and then building upon it.

Conclusions:  These have turned into life-savers because I use them as filler time when I’m teaching one kid and the other is waiting.  Great for extra practice and variety in any math program.  Good value for the price.