Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Fischertechnik E-Tronic Review: Easy STEM Elective for Middle/High School

STEM education has been firmly in the spotlight for a long time now, with no signs of wavering. Learning materials promising to infuse science, technology, engineering and math into your homeschool are everywhere. But without actually opening the box and trying the products, it can be hard to know if pre-packaged STEM projects are truly worthwhile, or if they’re just really expensive toys masquerading as educational. Let’s take a look at one popular STEM toy and see if it’s worth the hype.

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Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Did the Pandemic Increase Speech Delays? (plus, Board Books for Speech Therapy)

Did the pandemic increase speech delays? Some researchers say yes.

According to several recent studies, pandemic-era children are talking less than their predecessors1. As a parent to a pandemic toddler — Lochlan turned six months old in March 2020 — this concerns me deeply.

I’m not an expert in speech pathology, but some data seems to show both a measurable uptick in referrals to speech therapy2 and “a decline in verbal functioning”.1 One starts to wonder if maybe the kids are not okay3 in our current pandemic-response environment. (Researchers in at least one study indicated “factors related to the pandemic had ‘by far the greatest impact on infant and toddler neurodevelopment.'”1

It’s easy to feel helpless when the the broader global situation remains so complex and convoluted. But there is an immediately actionable response in our grasp: read books aloud, and talk to our kids!

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Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Easily Teach Kids to Code with STEM Toys for Homeschool

STEM Toys for Your Homeschool: Teach Kids to Code with Code Rocket

If you’re science-or math-averse, don’t let your own limitations keep your kids from delving into STEM projects. Code Rocket lets you teach kids to code, even if you have no idea how. The video lessons — and the interactive circuit board — walk kids through fun C++ programming projects. Because the code kids are compiling operates the physical rocket-shaped circuit board, they’ll get immediately satisfying results, like blinking LEDs and beeping sounds!

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Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzle Review – the Human Abdomen

Tell me you’re a homeschooler without telling me you’re a homeschooler. I’ll go first: we just completed an intestine puzzle. There are some activities which just scream “homeschooler”, you know what I mean? Assembling the internal organs of the human abdomen in jigsaw form is definitely one of those moments.

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzle – the Human Abdomen from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

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Book Reviews, Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Teaching Vocabulary Through Art: 101 Doodle Definitions

What’s the best vocabulary curriculum?

What’s the best vocabulary curriculum — one with Greek and Latin, right? Although I’m a big proponent of teaching word roots, I’d argue that for elementary-aged kids, the most effective vocabulary curriculum might actually be the one that’s the most fun. (Fun is often profoundly effective.)

Words are thrilling. They’re flexible yet bold, evocative yet concise, and powerful yet ephemeral. They can be translated and transcribed, sung and spoken, spun into cantatas, carved and chanted, whispered and written. Twenty-six letters can be woven into sonnets and mysteries, songs and orders, death and life.

In spite of the absolute magic of words, we somehow often manage to turn vocabulary study into a chore, transforming words into tasks. When vocabulary study becomes drudgery, when words are wrenched from their context and vocabulary becomes copywork — and nothing more — even the most voracious of bookworms begin to resent vocabulary. This is a travesty! A vocabulary study in which kids don’t retain the material isn’t much of vocabulary study at all.

But what if vocabulary study was creative?

What if we let kids draw?

What if we even allowed doodling?

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary copy of 101 Doodle Definitions from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this review. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

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Book Reviews, Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Best Usborne Baby Books from Timberdoodle’s Tiny Tots Package

Best Usborne Board Books from Timberdoodle Tiny Tots

In addition to spending a small fortune on coffee beans and regularly bathing in coffee, I also maintain an exceptionally large collection of board books, distributed throughout the house.

I keep a few in each bedroom, set some aside to distract wee Lochlan while I host the livestream discussion for our virtual co-op, place a few of the more tattered books in the playpen, and store the rest in the living room.

Board books — like other books — enjoy a central place of prominence in our home. They’re kind of a big deal around here.

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Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Games for Kids to Play Alone: Walls & Warriors Review

Games Kids Can Play Alone - Walls & Warriors Timberdoodle Review

It’s hard to know which one-player games are worth playing, isn’t it? Games kids can play alone are a great way to foster independence and critical thinking in your homeschool, but how do you sort through all the games designed for solo play and pick out the best ones?

I tend to navigate towards single-player logic puzzle games, as they’re a great exercise in thinking skills. Puzzle games require careful thought, planning, and thinking outside the box. And if you have a particularly rigid-thinking child like I do, logic puzzles are a good way to practice the flexibility and creativity needed to solve problems.

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Book Reviews, Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

The Most Hilarious Way to Teach Homeschool Physics

The Most Hilarious Way to Teach Homeschool Physics with the Wile E Coyote Physical Science Genius Books from Timberdoodle

Here’s a little homeschooling secret — a confession, really. Science at our house doesn’t usually involve experiments. There, I said it. There are so many great hands-off ideas for studying science, though. I’m not anti-experiment — that would be a weird stance to take, ha! — but I just don’t have the bandwidth to carry out hands-on science all the time!

Fortunately, I am able to actively supplement elementary science and nurture scientific literacy in many different independent ways. One fun idea? Highly-illustrated science books. An even more fun idea? Hilarious science books.

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