Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Custom Timberdoodle Curriculum Kit - 5th Grade - Product Review

Over the past few months we have had the opportunity to review so many fun Timberdoodle products that when I began to plan our curriculum for 5th grade this year, I found myself being drawn towards so many things on the Timberdoodle website.  We are still committed to classical education with a Charlotte Mason style, but so many of the Timberdoodle products can be easily incorporated into those methods. I ended up ordering a Custom Curriculum Kit based on our specific needs and it ended up being a combination of 5th and 6th grade materials, specially focusing on STEM learning, and crazy smart hands on products.   After we received our products, we were so honored to be asked to do a review of our curriculum kit as well! 

 Every item in these pictures is from Timberdoodle, with the exception of the stack of literature books on the left, our Latin and English programs.  Timberdoodle has GREAT options for Latin and English but we already had those in place. The wonderful part about the custom kits is that you can use things you already have in your home from older children, and it is super simple to customize your order through their website.  I (and Timberdoodle) would highly suggest adding in plenty of your own literature reading to compliment your homeschool kit.  You can easily pick up some great books at your local library as well.

Miss Boo was one HAPPY girl the day her box arrived - it's almost more fun than Christmas! 

 SCIENCE!! We are going to have so much fun this year discovering so many parts of science with all the fun products offered.  We are starting off our studies with the Human Body.  My Boo has recently discovered a passion for all things dance, so it is a prime time to teach her exactly how her body is able to do all that it does.   One of the great perks of homeschooling is to be able to really customize the learning to their particular interest as they grow. 

 Putting together this 3-D puzzle of the human skeleton is an excellent way to learn how we were put together!  We had lots of good conversations about how difficult it was for us to put the puzzle together, yet God was able to simply breathe life into us - simple yet profound.  Making humans can't be very easy!  The puzzle was fun and challenging, just enough challenge for a fifth grader.  She named him Gabriel.  Gabriel would like to say hello! :)

The Human Body book has been a great addition to our Dr. Bonyfide books. Of course Boo discovered right away the x-ray picture of a dance move she does in acro class.  She was so excited to try it out and even more excited to see a picture of herself re-enacting! 

 These Dr. Bonyfide books are fun and silly but take learning about the human skeleton to a whole new level! 

If you are looking for some fun and easy science experiments to do with your kids - this BOOM! 50 Fantastic Science Experiments is just what you need.  We learned about electrostatic using cornstarch, oil and a ballon.  So simple and so fun.

One of Boo's very favorite learning items is the SPRK Sphero.  It is a programmable robot remote control learning toy. It has amazing precision and can be reprogrammed via a smartphone or tablet. It teaches visual programming through different apps available, and can then move to text based programming. There are SPRK lessons to teach programming, robotics and math.  This thing is basically indestructible - it is waterproof, has a (sold separately) rugged cover to take it through any kind of outdoor terrain, it can even be incorporated as a pet toy - our little Shihtzu goes CRAZY over it and chases it all through the house.   It can even be used as a game controller - it's basically a go-anywhere do-anything all in one learning device.  A little pricey - but AMAZING!! We will be using this for many years to come - I'm not sure we will ever even be able to learn everything that is is capable of doing.

  Boo was programming it to launch into a sink of water here.  She has also made obstacle courses and tracks to maneuver the sphero through. I'm sure you will be seeing so much more on the blog about all the fun with have with this device.  We even just ordered a "chariot" that can be attached to it that has a phone holder so that Boo can create videos of the places her Sphero goes.
 A little addition to our Bible time is this book called The Ology, Ancient Truths Ever New.  Theology is certainly, without a doubt, one of the most weighty topics we will ever learn about.  This book gives a very simple overview of the basic truths of the christian doctrine.   I was a bit disappointed that it didn't go a little deeper, but sometimes reviewing the very basics of our faith, especially for a ten-year-old can't be overlooked. It is a beautiful book and it feels so wonderful - haha! It's very soft with wonderful illustrations with thick quality pages. We have other books that we use to round out our Bible curriculum as well.

Stopmotion Explosion Animation Set has been a huge hit!  The set comes with a camera to attach to a computer and the software to install.  It is simple enough for a novice (like Boo) to start experimenting with, and can last through much more advanced animation creations.  Boo has already made little movies about matchbox cars, lego figures, miniature horses and more.  We have only scratched the surface of everything this product can do, but it will be a great project tool for creating famous history scenes, bible stories and so much more! 

 We are diving in deep to geography this year as we begin year one of two years of studying American History (through a separate curriculum). Timberdoodle offers so many great enrichment tools for studying American history.  One of them is this book Drawing Around the World USA  - a great way to learn all the facts of each state, as well as being able to DRAW them!  She traces and draws one state at a time each one building on the next until by the end of the year she should be able to draw the entire US from memory. What a fun way to learn geography.

Bentley, the worlds cutest dog, is a huge fan of Timberdoodle.  He gives two paws up to this fun Doodle America book.  Each day Boo has something new to doodle that has to do with American History. Here she doodled her own design for an American flag.  This book along with Doodle Your Day are daily activities that Boo does while she listens to our current read-aloud. 
 Here is a fun way to review and memorize the capitals of each state - Wrap-Ups States and Capitals. This is a perfect tool for read-aloud time, car rides, waiting at appointments, or just about anywhere!  We have used wrap-ups for learning our math facts for many years but we thought this would be just as fun for states and capitals.  It's also a great way to learn the two letter abbreviation for each state.
 If you aren't familiar with wrap-ups, they are self-correcting joined at the top boards with a string attached.  Your child will match the state listed on one side to the capital listed on the other side and then turns it over to see if the string lines up with the printed lines.  A great tool for visual and kinesthetic learners.

 Another great geography tool is the Scrunch Map.  We have our large paper maps on the wall where we love to mark each place in our studies that we come across, but this map offers so much more versatility!  It is seriously indestructible and is stored in it's own little drawstring pouch.   Another great tool to throw in a bag for homeschooling on the go - or even just to explore with on the floor....

Or even for impromptu discussions with dad on the couch when the conversation arises - along with the 3D Puzzleball Globe.
 As crinkly and scrunchy as it is, I thought surely the ink would come off in places, but it doesn't! It's incredible and durable and must be made of indestructible materials - very impressive.

 Extreme Dot to Dot US History is a fun challenge and actually very relaxing too - even mom loves to do these pages!  The one below ended up being Betsy Ross sewing the flag - we have a friend by the last name Rossi and they named their cat Betsy.  I can NEVER get the name right when we are talking about who sewed our US flag.  I'm pretty sure my Boo thinks all kudos for our flag belong to a cat. 

 In addition to our own literature choices for the year, this Step by Step pathway reader is an excellent bonus to our reading time.  It has the absolute dearest stories in it that teach character, virtue and so much more. They were actually designed to be used in an Amish classroom, so there is nothing but wonderfulness in them! They have great questions at the end of the short stories that always spark great conversations.  It is full of stories - perfect for narration - as well as beautiful poetry, quotes and sayings, it is lovely and simple.  We have used these books for many years and they will always be a part of our home library.

Last year we didn't do a formal spelling program and instead incorporated it into daily dictations, narrations thus taking a more natural approach.  This year I thought we would try Spelling You See .  This is a great multi-sensory program and adds an element of color as they "chunk" different vowel combinations.  I think this would have been perfect for one of my older girls who struggled a bit more with spelling, but for Boo this has already become monotonous "busy work" that she would dread each day.   She is a natural when it comes to spelling so I think we are going to go back to the tried and true list of spelling words, along with a more natural method. She actually misses having spelling tests at the end of the week! Silly girl.

 You've heard me talk on here before about how much we love Thinking Putty for fidgets. Read alouds, quiet reading, thinking through math - the possibilities are endless.  Add in a magnet and you have Super Magnetic Reactive Razz Thinking Putty! 

After we complete our unit on the Human Body for science, we are going to begin using Interactive Science. What I love about this product is that it touches on lots of different areas of science, which I think for 5th grade is pretty important.  So many science curriculums for homeschoolers focus on only one subject for the whole year.  I want Boo to explore all the areas of science while she is young. 
This is kind of a text book meets workbook approach. There is an online component as well where she can see videos clips of what she is studying, as well as science experiments being performed.  I think this will be a great fit for a classic approach to fifth grade science, combined with lots of other products as well as "living books" that matches with our Charlotte Mason methods.

 Back to our unit on The Human Body - is this fun 4D Human Torso puzzle.  This puzzle was a bit trickier than the skeleton one, and doesn't hold up as well to stay on the desk.  But it certainly taught my Boo so much about the organs and where they were in her body.  It's funny what they think of when they have never really been taught what different organs do and where they are located. 

 "Here Mom, have a heart." 

Gabriel meets Torso Man. 

 I got this Jump In Writing course because I wanted something that focused a bit more on the creative writing side.  We are using a pretty intense writing program so I was hoping this could bring a different flavor to our writing.  I've decided to put it on the back burner right now.  I think it's just a bit too much to use as a supplement and would be better off possibly as a stand alone curriculum.  We already have so much writing incorporated into our everyday that I knew adding this would tip the scales.  Don't be afraid to know when to say NO to something, even if it's awesome, but not the right fit for your homeschool right now. I think in a year or two this may come in very handy.

 When it comes to strategic thinking and logic - Lazer Maze is the winner! It uses mirrors, targets and a (safe) laser to solve the challenges.  It has won tons of awards and endorsements and is another one of the products that kids just have FUN with, without realizing they are learning so much.
 By using challenge cards, which increase in difficulty, Boo has to figure out how to position each piece so that the laser bends and beams off the mirrors in the appropriate direction to finally land on the end target - which lights up if done correctly.
 Bentley is always fascinated by the beam of light on the floor - I'm pretty sure he is part cat. Because he also holds to the motto - 
"If it fits, I sits". 

For math this year, we went with Teaching Textbooks 6.  On the Timberdoodle website there is a place where you can have your child take a placement test to see what level is appropriate for them.  Math is always our least favorite part of the day, so this fun and independent computer program takes a huge load off of momma and makes for much fewer math tears - well for one of us anyway! It's a great program that is engaging, automatic, and open and go.  It even keeps track of all the grades for you - it is my new BFF - I'm kidding.......kind of. It even has a fun little cartoon character that interacts with the student and gives tips and hints when necessary.

The Spectrum Test Practice for Grade 5 is something we will use throughout the year as a guideline of sorts.  I think it's important that homeschool kids still get experience with standardized testing procedures. In some states, these tests are even used to determine if you are able to continue home education.  We are fortunate to not have that in Maryland.  Having test practice is helpful not only for the student, but can be a great way for moms to see where you may need to focus on certain skills. 

 In every Timberdoodle Curriculum Kit you get a super handy Handbook.  It gives you great tips on scheduling along with info on each piece of curriculum.  For custom kits like I did, there is even an option on line to create a custom weekly schedule as well.  Timberdoodle just makes it all SOOO easy! 
Homeschooling is one of the best decisions I have made as a parent.  It is certainly not for everyone, each kid is so different and has such different needs.   My favorite part about homeschooling is that it forces me to spend intentional time with my kids.  The time spent together, the conversations that develop, the memories made and the relationship that grows between us are all part of her well-rounded education.  Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life as Charlotte Mason says.  There is so much more to it than reading, writing and arithmetic. Have a great community support in place, a church with plenty of activities to be involved in, a place for your kids to serve, an extracurricular activity that encourages teamwork and a well rounded education in in place! 

Remember, your curriculum are simply tools towards education - the real education comes from the lifestyle you are living and the legacy you are passing on. You can accomplish a beautiful education without a single one of these items listed above, they are simply tools.  Happy Homeschooling my friends! 

This is not the complete curriculum I use for my fifth grader - this is just the Timberdoodle products that I was asked to review as part of the Timberdoodle blog team.  If you would like to see more of the core of our curriculum you can click here.