Tuesday, December 16, 2014

O Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…

I admit it…I love it that my husband put the lights on the tree and let the kids loose to decorate it all on their own…IMG_0405

The 14-year-old doesn’t know that I got him in this one…please pardon the fuzziness (in all the others he is just a blur running to get out of the shot).IMG_0409

Unwrapping decades of carefully stored memories…IMG_0410


IMG_0422IMG_0424IMG_0425The kids hunted for old G. K. amongst the crumpled wrappings.IMG_0419

Yes, there is a Christmas Frankenstein monster on my tree.IMG_0420

I briefly thought about removing the beat up fireman’s hat (can you spot it?) and reshooting this picture…but, no, this is my real (though not alive) Christmas tree.  I did kick away the Duplo that was scraggling under the tree.  No point in letting it all hang out, right?IMG_0418

Those gifts?  Most of them are little gifts the children have been busily making for each other and our relatives.  Methinks I may need to buy more tape and wrapping paper.

Do you have a Christmas tree?  Share a link if you’ve posted pictures!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair is Coming!

For the past 3 years, I’ve been proud to host the annual Virtual Curriculum Fair throughout the month of January here at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds and we’ll be starting it again in just a few short weeks. 

It’ll be winter soon here in the U.S, and in less the a month the new calendar year will start.  I don’t know about you, but for me that really cold, dark time after the holidays is a rough time to keep on keeping on.  So I invented a blog carnival to help me focus on my blessings and to, hopefully, provide some inspiration to other homeschool parents.  Thus, the VCF was born!

2015 vcf jan5-001What is the Virtual Curriculum Fair (VCF)?

Let’s start by explaining the name:

Virtual---It takes place online.

Curriculum---In the academy, the word “curriculum” means the “overall course of study,” rather than this or that particular published program.   This is what I had in mind when I named the Fair, the idea that each homeschool has its own, unique curriculum that may be made up of very many parts.  Some of those parts will be published programs, schedules, textbooks, games, whatever.  Some of them will be harder to describe.   Anything that is a part of your homeschool is part of your curriculum and is fair game for the VCF!

Fair---The VCF is a month-long carnival or blog hop for homeschool bloggers that posts each Monday in January.   There is a published theme for each week (don’t worry, there’s a lot of flexibility in the themes).

The goal is for participants to give other homeschoolers a peek into what they are really doing with their kiddos that works for them and why.  

Take a look at all the wonderfulness that was shared during the 2012 Virtual Curriculum Fair, the 2013 Fair, and the 2014 Fair!

This year’s dates and themes:

  1. January 5th---Playing with Words: the Language Arts---includes phonics, reading, writing, grammar, spelling, speech, literature, etc., etc., etc. Latin and foreign language studies could also go here.
  2. January 12th---Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science---includes anything to do with mathematics, mathematical thinking, numbers, arithmetic, symbolic logic, critical thinking, and math-y sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.).
  3. January 19th---Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science---includes history, geography, world cultures, worldview, biology, botany, geology, etc., etc., etc.
  4. January 26th---Seeking Beauty: the Arts and Everything that Brings Beauty to Our World---includes any of the arts, handicrafts, but really ANYTHING at all that adds beauty to your homeschool.

Come read the VCF beginning Monday, January 5th!

A number of bloggers who participated last year will be doing it again.  Sign up to receive email updates from Homeschooling Hearts & Minds so you won’t miss a week.

Would you like to join us?

I am currently accepting participants for the 2015 VCF.  If you homeschool and blog, I’d love to have you join us.  I don’t want to know about numbers or Facebook followers.

You can choose to participate every week or pick and choose which themes you will write about.  I promise that the guidelines are pretty simple and things like social media shares are optional. 

All participating bloggers will be a part of a closed Facebook group where you will be able to share your links for each week and I will keep you apprized of Fair happenings.  Buttons and banners will be provided.

If you’d like to be a part of the VCF, please go to the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair Facebook group and ask to join.

vcf coming banner-001

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Spy Adventure and Pixar Play for VTech’s Innotab (a review)

It’s easy to add more hours of fun to your child’s Innotab with Learning Cartridges from VTech.  These can make great little holiday extras for under the tree or tucked into a stocking.  We recently had the opportunity to try out and review two new cartridges, and 5-year-old Emma loves them!

Review of I Spy Adventure and Pixar Play for Innotab 3S at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Review VTech I Spy Adventure Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

I Spy Adventure

ages 4-7

MSRP:  $24.99

Available from VTech, Amazon, and other retailers

Based on the popular I Spy books from Scholastic, I Spy Adventure will have your child practicing early reading skills, matching, sorting, and problem-solving with 50 levels of game play that become progressively harder as each level is mastered.

Emma loves the bright, photo-realistic pictures and the sense of accomplishment she feels while playing these games. 

Review VTech I Spy Adventure Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Review VTech I Spy Adventure Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsThese activities encourage abstract thinking and are great for visual spatial kids.  Emma is one of those kids who loves (loves) to play with math manipulatives, to build and discover patterns, and so on…we constantly have attribute blocks and other little bits and pieces under foot from her experiments.  I Spy Adventure allows her to play with some of these ideas in a way that doesn’t make a mess and is highly portable (for those moments when she’s waiting for her sister’s ballet class to finish, for instance).  This one’s a keeper and because it increases in difficulty, it will grow with her.


Review Pixar Play Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Pixar Play

ages 4-7

MSRP:  $24.99

Available from VTech, Amazon, and other retailers

Disney’s Pixar Play features characters from 4 of our favorite Pixar films:  Finding Nemo, Monster’s Inc., Toy Story, and The Incredibles.

The games all have an easy and a difficult level, making it easy for kids of different ages to enjoy.  Emma’s favorite (so far) is a simple Finding Nemo platformer where you have to navigate the perils of the ocean, while collecting bubbles and friends.

Review Pixar Play Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Her second favorite is the “photo studio,” where you can take pictures of yourself or your friends with your favorite Pixar characters (or masquerading as them).

Review Pixar Play Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsEmma as Violet, from the Incredibles

Review Pixar Play Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

and as Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story

Review Pixar Play Innotab at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

and in Violet’s energy globe

The only downside we’ve had with the Pixar Play cartridge is that it doesn’t automatically read all the options to you---for instance, when choose one of the movie titles, it will take you to a screen where you can choose a game, but the games are only identified with buttons that have writing on them.  When you click on it, it tells you the name, but only after you have selected.  It would be nice if there were picture buttons for the games to help out kids who are not reading independently yet.

Both the I Spy Adventure and Pixar Play Learning Cartridges have added substantial play value to our Innotab 3S and either would make a great holiday gift for the VTech loving kid in your life.  They are compatible with all current Innotab learning tablets, as well as the new Innotab Max, and are available from VTech, Amazon, and local retailers.

Disclosure:  I received these two learning cartridges for free from VTech to facilitate my review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.