Monthly Archives: February 2014

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Orchestra

Classical Conversations Orchestra

Confession time.  I can’t sing. I mean, seriously. In fact, I sometimes wonder how the children in my CC class manage to learn any of the material from someone who teaches most of it with songs that she usually butchers mercilessly. Now, on the upside (sort of), I can actually TELL that I can’t sing. I’m not tone deaf. In fact, I have a HUGE appreciation for music and musical people. Before our children came along, my husband (who has an AWESOME voice! The proof is on his album.) and I were season ticket holders to the symphony. We loved it! Then the kiddos arrived and going out became more of a rarity. And we choose to do other things (like go places we can talk in peace!) when we do go out, usually. But, I say all of that to say . . . I really ENJOY the Orchestra 6-weeks of CC! And I have LOTS of ideas for things to do in class and even more for outside of class to help reinforce the concepts we’re learning during this period!

Activities for Class

Orchestra-ImageIf you’re a tutor out there who is stressing about this particular portion of the year, I’ll give you my layman’s two cents (and empathize with you . . . Tin Whistle is the hardest for me!): Don’t get bogged down in whether or not you love the music, or whether or not the children do. You’re task is largely the same with the Orchestra as it is with any other subject – teach (and drill) the grammar.

Introduce the time period, explain what a symphony is, what an orchestra is, what the instrument families are (more on all of this below). Then spend some time listening for those things you’ve discussed in the musical pieces (what kind of emotion do you hear? what instrument families? etc.).

Melody from has a great song (with video) and file folder game for reinforcing the different musical periods.  I also like to put something up on the wall in the classroom and make sure we tie the musical periods back to their place in our timeline (it’s a good time to pull those particular timeline cards out again), and a picture of each composer as we discuss him. We’ll review those things each week and then build on that knowledge. If it’s at all helpful to you, you’re welcome to download and print off my “Period Headers” and pictures of composers here

Mary, from, has uploaded a great file called “SquiltCycle2.pdf” to CC Connected. It’s an example of the Squilt (Super Quiet Uninterrupted Listening Time) curriculum she has created (see her blog and website for even more info), and it is chock full of good information for teaching this cycle of orchestra!

Bulletin Board and Wall ideas for teaching about the Orchestra. CC Weeks 19-24

When I first started tutoring, I purchased a bulletin board set with nice pictures of the instruments. While I recognize that this might not be entirely in keeping with the “stick-in-the-sand” method of CC (which I do truly respect and generally try to adhere to), having these visuals has worked well for me. The particular set that I have is large, and the sheets can be left as 4 large posters, or they’re made to do some accordion folding. I choose just to slap them up on the wall in our classroom each week. They get the kids’ attention and make the Orchestra study different from the other studies. I think I paid $12 or $13 for this set in a Parent/Teacher store somewhere and this is the third year I’ll use it. It’s definitely been worth it to me to have it around!

In teaching Orchestra I will spend time each week talking about the instrument families (If you’re looking for more information on instrument families, this website has a great overview to give you information to share with you kids!). We will cover one family each week. Our community learns the Orchestra song in our assembly time in the morning and we add an instrument each week, so I sync our class time up with our assembly time – Week 19: Violin (Introduce all 4 families and focus on the Strings), Week 20: Clarinet (Woodwinds), Week 21: Trumpet (Brass), Week 22: The Horn (Review Brass and Woodwinds), Week 23: Drum (Percussion). We’ll use the posters above to assist us as we discuss the instrument families, and we’ll also use these worksheets I’ve created to reinforce some of the facts about the instrument families:

FUN worksheets for learning (or reinforcing) facts about the instrument families. CC Weeks 19-24

I like to play Bingo with the Instrument Families for at least the first week (Week 19) of Orchestra. It’s popular, so we usually play it again during the review weeks (Weeks 23 and 24) if there is time available. It’s a great way for kids to get familiar with the instruments and their families.  I downloaded a black and white version off CC Connected a couple of years ago, but I prefer the version that I’m using this year. It’s color, and the images are labeled with the names of the instruments, so it reinforces the names and cuts down on confusion. I downloaded it here.

Once we’ve reviewed the orchestra, our vocabulary, and the instrument families, we’ll talk about that week’s composer and add his picture to the wall. Classical Music for Dummies has some great information about the composer and the timer period in which he composed. I also like to use the books I’ve included in the “Books” section below to add more information and visuals to our few minutes discussing the composer.

When it comes to time to listen to the music, I REALLY appreciate the CC moms who put the listening flow charts together and post them on CC Connected each year. This Cycle, a flow chart for each of the three classical pieces has been posted by “thegossards” if you have access to CC Connected and you’d like to download them. This is when I’m thankful to have my “Classical Music for Dummies” CD ripped and loaded on my iPhone, so I can play the songs and watch the time to see where we are in the piece. It helps me to engage the children in class if I can say, “Okay, listen for the . . .  (ex:”Oboe to start playing”, “the strings to all come in”, “the horn to start crying”, etc.)” And, it’s helpful to have moms in class with the younger ones to point to where we are on the flowchart (I usually print enough copies for there to be one for every two children to share). Some pieces of music lend themselves really well to this. Others lend themselves better to just listening quietly and drawing/coloring a picture of what the music makes you think of or feel like. There’s usually a sheet for this out on CC Connected, as well, usually with a little bio of the composer, but of course a blank piece of paper works fine, too. We’re in a very small classroom this year, so we won’t be doing any dancing, but in years past, I’ve also taken paint sticks or large popsicle sticks and cut crepe paper streamers to tape/glue to them and we’ve whirled and twirled to music that had that feel to it.

If time permits, and things are going well, we might listen to a piece (or a portion of a piece) more than once. When a piece has very distinct sections played by certain instrument families, it can be fun to hand out popsicle stick “puppets” of the instruments and ask the children to raise the family that they hear (this can range from easy to very tough . . . and can be quite funny when the pieces get complex!).


Well, if you’ve been spending ANY time on this blog at ALL, you will be SHOCKED (voice dripping with sarcasm) to see the following books from the “Getting to Know” series by Mike Venezia. Seriously, I should be paid for my endorsement at this point. But alas, I am not. I just really, really like these books and think they work BEAUTIFULLY for Foundations age kids. Particularly the preschool/elementary ones, but these books are meaty enough to work on up into middle and high school; they’re just easy to read. I actually like to take them to class with me when I tutor. The facts are interesting and some of the pictures are helpful to the more visual kids. They’re a great supplement to the information in Classical Music for Dummies.


Sadly, there is no book on Dvorak in the “Getting to Know” series (Get on that, Mike!), but this one has gotten excellent reviews. It’s  en route to me, and I’ll come back and adjust my recommendation accordingly.

Book for learning about Dvorak. CC Cycle 2 Week 22

This is a great book (with CD included) for learning about the Orchestra. It also touches on the different musical periods, so it dovetails nicely with how we cover the Orchestra in CC.

Great book (and accompanying CD) for learning about the Orchestra. CC Weeks 19-24

CD’s/MP3 downloads and Videos

I really like this entire series of CDs (you can also download the MP3 files). They’re inexpensive, and they mix the biography in with the music of the composer in a way that makes it really easy to listen to. You can treat it like an audio book and pay rapt attention to the narrator with the biography, or it’s fairly easy to just focus on the music and tune out the spoken word, if you prefer. These can be nice to have playing in the background while your children are playing or working on school work at home. You can pick up an awful lot of information (and hear a lot of classical music!) that way.

Great CD Series! Mixes music with biographical information. CC Cycle 2 Week 20 Great CD Series! Mixes music with biographical information. CC Cycle 2 Week 21 Great CD Series! Mixes music with biographical information. CC Cycle 2 Week 22

Of course, the classic way to teach children about the different instruments in the orchestra is via some version of Peter and the Wolf, composed by Prokofiev. My favorite version of this is the one narrated by Sting.

My favorite version of this composition! The classic way to expose children to the different instruments in an orchestra. CC Weeks 19-24.

Great book/CD (see video at website) for learning about the Orchestra. CC Weeks 19-24Two years ago, I discovered The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, which I actually like more than Peter and the Wolf for actually explaining the instruments in the orchestra to children. It’s got a lot of dry humor (much of which goes over children’s heads, but adults will find amusing), and does a great job of introducing the orchestra. I’m a VERY visual person, and I’ve got to tell you that the book that accompanies the CD did nothing for me. I think the CD or MP3 files stand on their own just fine, but I’ve had pretty much no luck locating them for purchase by themselves. I’ll include a link to the book here at Amazon so you can see the reviews or look at it for yourself, but I was also able to find a series of youtube videos that someone created using the book and the audio. You can access my playlist of them here, or push play below.

Games and Apps

The New York Philharmonic website has an entire area for kids that is AWESOME! Definitely check it out and explore. Here are two games from this site that you definitely won’t want to miss:

  • Sort the musical instruments by family:
  • A classic “memory” game with musical instrument images. Nice thing about this one is that the images are labeled and when you flip the cards they play, so you experience the sound of each instrument. Brilliant!

Carnegie Hall has also created an online Safari adventure for learning about the orchestra.

At this website you must correctly answer the questions about the instrument families or your ship will be sunk! 

At this website you can listen to a sample of music and guess which instrument performed it.

This is just another good all around website. It has games and uses Benjamin Britten’s Young People’s Guide to the Orchestra to illustrate the sounds of the different instrument families.

This is a free iPad app for learning about the Orchestra:

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 19

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 19

We’ve entered the final 6 weeks! It’s the downhill slope, but it sometimes feels more like it’s the hardest part of the year. I read a great blog post entitled “Everyone wants to quit in November and February” a week or so ago. It can be encouraging just to realize that you aren’t the only one who feels worn out! Hang in there, folks!


Well, here’s the thing. The Korean War is often called the “Forgotten War” and that makes finding great kid-friendly sources about it a little, ummmm . . . challenging.

Crash Course History has a video on the Cold War, which begins with Korea (first 5 minutes of the video, then it moves on the Vietnam) and includes a lot of good information. My guess is that it’s probably too much for a most of our elementary-level students and even many of the middle-schoolers, although if you’re like me, you sometimes just dig in and watch/read as much as your kiddos will tolerate and think that it will be beneficial to them, if only to reinforce the actual words that are part of this week’s history sentence (North, South, Korea, MacArthur, etc.).

Here are three websites with overviews of the Korean War. I might or might not actually go through them with my children, but I feel much better informed after perusing them. They gave me some context for the war that I didn’t previously understand (apparently watching reruns of M.A.S.H. can’t really be considered historically informative).

  1. (this was originally linked to an American Experience episode called “Race for the Superbomb” that can be found on YouTube. It’s not really kid-friendly, but I’ll include the link here for the history junkies among us – The part specifically about North Korea runs from Part 3 at about 13:30 and on into Part 4 for the first few minutes.)
  2. (includes a quiz at the end to see if you were paying attention to what you read.)
  3. (includes some links to videos of war news reels.)

Need a song to reinforce this week’s memory work? Here’s a catchy one, with a nice overview of the first law of thermodynamics, along with a review of the two types of energy (covered in Week 15).

If you’re still willing to watch a Bill Nye video, he’s got an old episode out there on Energy. I thought I’d posted it back on Week 15, but apparently not:

Science Project
Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 19 Flight lift drag weight thrust

Each of my children has been home sick from CC once in the past two weeks, so we spent some time this week doing the science experiments from Week 18 and 19 at home so the child who missed out at CC could participate, too.

NASA’s website is full of great information for students about the dynamics of flight. It even includes Newton’s three laws of motions in layman’s terms.

Speaking of NASA, this is a really neat video about the dynamics of flight. It does a great job of explaining lift, drag, weight, and thrust!

This 6th grade teacher made up a song to help his students remember the four forces that impact flight:

Again, Bill Nye’s got an old episode on the subject:


I’ve mentioned in a past week that I really think this CC mom does a great job of tying in the geography with a song and hand motions that help it all stick. Even though our community uses different music, I often find her hand motions VERY helfpul!

Once again, someone out there in CC-land was kind enough to create a geography review game. This one just includes Week 19’s geography (which is GREAT for nailing down the new information!), but don’t forget that there are several out there for other weeks, too, so if you’re trying to get a good overall review, here you go:

Someone raised a question on CC Connected about geography review and the suggestions that came out of that were great! (Consider this a plug for CC Connected and all the good info shared there!) One of the websites that was suggested and that looks very interesting was Just thought I’d pass it along in case you wanted to check it out, too.



This is a flashback to previous weeks, but have you seen these awesome skip counting boards? Love this idea!!!

Fine Art

Come back tomorrow! I’ve got too much to post here, so I’m going to do a separate post on the Orchestra.

Review Games

It’s pretending to be spring here for a few days. It’s been WONDERFUL and we’ll take what we can get, but we know it’s a bluff and the cold weather is moving back in next week. So, it is CRITICAL that we spend some time outside enjoying the weather while we can! Hence the reason we took our CC review outside one afternoon this week. The kids swung on the swings while I asked them CC questions. We played a little game that they could swing as high and for as long as they wanted . . . until they missed a question. Then, they had to stop and start over again and it became the other one’s turn. I took our CC Memory Master Sticker sheets out with us and awarded stickers as we worked. It was a nice way to accomplish something we needed to work on and enjoy the weather at the same time!

One of my goals is to come up with some more active review games to use around here as the weather gets nicer. And, I keep thinking that it would be fun to get a few CC kids together one afternoon to play some review games that involved running, relays, hula hooping, or something like that. My brain is churning on it. If you have any great ideas or have seen anything out there that fits the bill, let me know!!

This post is linked to:

Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood Solagratiamom™

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 17 and 18

Classical Conversations Week 17 Week 18

We’re still in the taxes-filled zone around here (see Week 15 and 16 for more dull details, if you want them), so once again, I’m combining my Week 17 and 18 into a single post.


I don’t know about you guys, but I think some of the hardest memory sentences are the ones which are really just a list of names. We acted out the ones from the Renaissance (Week 6) based on their occupation. We used the dress-up game for WWI leaders (Week 14). And now for WW II leaders, we did some goofy acting out. I did print out Melody Stroud’s history cards (we’re using ALL her cards at home for review, see below) from CC Connected (listed under melodystroud) to use as additional visuals in class (I think it’s nice to try to introduce the grammar in a way that works for at least two learning styles if you can). We held our arms in a big “X” for Axis and shook our hands in front of us (like the “England” sign for “Alfred the Great of England” in the Timeline motions). Here are the GOOFY motions we used for the leaders:

  • Hitler: hit our palm with our other fist (we also used this in Week 16, so at least we’re consistent in our goofiness)
  • Tojo: lifted our foot and pointed to our toe
  • Mussolini: hands on our heads with fingers spread apart like the antlers of a moose (we also use that this week for our _bimus Latin ending. Again, we are nothing if not consistent in our insanity.)
  • Churchill: form fingers into church and steeple . . . you know the little children’s rhyme “Here is the church, here is the steeple . . . “
  • Roosevelt: pretend to smell a rose
  • Eisenhower: point to our eye
  • MacArthur: salute
  • Stalin: finger over our upper lip like a mustache

I know that you are now SO impressed that you will insist that CC adopt these as their standard hand motions and next time we do this cycle, I’ll be featured in my own video on the website, right there with the woman doing ACTUAL sign-language in the Timeline video.  Right? Sure.

We used those same basic hand motions for Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin during Week 18.

There’s a nice little overview of the United Nations in the following video. It probably goes without saying that the United Nations is a hot topic, which raises wildly differing views. This is a simple, positive video overview or the formation, intent, and structure of the UN that I would say is very appropriate (if a bit dry) for Foundations-level students. Skip reading the comments on the video (visible if you access it directly at YouTube), many of which are NOT kid-friendly.

And, if you’re a fan of Kid President, here’s a video of his visit to the UN for World Humanitarian Day (not so much educational, but he’s a cute kid):

The following video about the UN gave me flashbacks of high school, but it is a pretty straight forward overview of the history, purpose, and structure of the UN.


This book looks great! I have it on hold at the library and will update you in a week or so after we’ve had a chance to read and use it!

Awesome looking book for learning about Newton and his discoveries of the Laws of Physics! CC Cycle 2 Weeks 16-18

Got a child who loves graphic novels and comic books? I have two! If you do, check this one out, it gets excellent reviews and sounds perfect for early elementary!

Cool Looking Graphic Novel for learning about Isaac Newton and his laws of Physics. CC Cycle 2 Weeks 16-18

And while we’re on a graphic novel roll, this looks interesting, too (and there’s one on States of Matter in the same series . . . why am I just discovering this now???):

Cool looking graphic novel about the laws of physics. CC Cycle 2 Weeks 16-18.

And of course, this is usually a reliably good series, too:

This is a great series of books for learning about history! CC Cycle 2 Weeks 16-18

If you enjoy Peabody and Sherman videos, don’t overlook the one on Isaac Newton.

There’s a series of short videos available at on Isaac Newton. I’ve watched the “Mini Biography” and it’s great. I have not yet watched the others, so I would recommend that you preview them before you show your children.

There’s also a section on Isaac Newton on Jim Weiss’ CD “Galileo and the Stargazers” Audio CD, which I also recommended for learning about Copernicus back on Week 6 of this cycle.

Awesome CD for learning about Copernicus (Week 6) and Isaac Newton (Weeks 16-18) during CC Cycle 2!

If you didn’t see it in my last post, here’s a way to illustrate all three of Newton’s laws of motion using matchbox cars:

Science Project

I felt like this week’s science experiment needed some explanation beyond the projects/experiments. I’m going to outline what I chose to do here, just in case it’s helpful to another tutor or two as a jumping off point for doing something (probably something much more impressive!) for your own class. With a little help from my husband (who managed to round up things that were basically trash from around the house to help me out!), I did a little bit of an illustration before we dug into the outlined projects from the Foundations guide. I took an old lampshade to class (Yep, that’s right, a lampshade. We homeschoolers are resourceful folk.) and we pretended that it was a mountain. I showed the kiddos a matchbox car and explained that there were basically 3 ways to get the car to the top of the mountain:

  1. Lift it straight up, which would take a LOT of force/strength/energy,
  2. Build a long ramp that leads from the top of the mountain down to a point in the distance away from the mountain (I illustrated this with a piece of yarn stretched from the top of the mountain to a point down on the table. We pretended to drive the car up it and introduced the term “inclined plane.”). This would take longer, but would require less effort,
  3. Or (and largely because we can’t just build HUGE ramps everywhere) we can twist the inclined plane around the mountain, so the car can drive up it without having to start VERY far away from the base of the mountain.

Then we did the pencil/paper science project illustrating the same thing, so that they could all do it themselves. Using the yarn made it easy to illustrate why it would also take LONGER to get up the mountain on the inclined plane wrapped around it (the angle becomes more shallow and the road gets longer than the ramp would be) than it would to drive up a ramp built up its side.

Then, I took a rubber doorstop and explained that sometimes an inclined plane is used as a wedge to lift something heavy. After demonstrating that, it was easy to tie in the road illustration and the wedge illustration to explain that a screw is a type of “winding wedge” and we did the second experiment.

There are also some great videos available on the subject! A fellow tutor showed the following two to her class to help explain the experiments and they were captivated.

There’s also this one:

And, finally, here’s nice, simple experiment (performed by a kid) to illustrate the benefit of an inclined plane and how it works as a tool. She doesn’t actually do all the measuring, but I think you’ll all understand what she’s saying – if you lift the heavy object straight up, the rubber band will stretch more than it will when you pull it up the inclined plane because it takes less effort when you use the inclined plane, which is a simple, but very helpful, tool. The effort will be even less (and the rubber band will stretch less) when you make the angle of the inclined plane less steep. So, just like in our pencil and paper experiment for CC this week, it might take longer to get up the incline, but it also takes less work.


Man, I’ve been waiting for us to get caught up with this Geography review game for weeks 13-18!  My son will be thrilled that there’s a new geography game to play!

Fine Art

I purchased the following video series, called Understanding Art: Impressionism. We have not yet watched it, so I’ll have to report back later! The Full Season instant video can be purchased from Amazon for $9.99 (the DVD retails for $52), or individual episodes are available for $2.99.  I think Monet is discussed in nearly every episode (no surprise), Degas and Morisot are discussed in at least one (Episode 3 – Painting to the People).

Edit: I’ve started watching the series, and while I think it is very interesting and informative, some of the information is more sensational than I think appropriate for my children. My husband and I will probably finish watching it together (it IS interesting!) and gauge what age it might be appropriate for our children, but 7 and 5 are not the right age, in my opinion.

Videos series for learning about Impressionist Artists. Gets EXCELLENT reviews and looks wonderful!

Week 17, Degas:

Once again, I’m recommending a book (and video if you can find it!) from Mike Venezia’s “Getting to Know” series. I’ll spare you the accolades about the series. Just check all the other posts where I’ve recommended them.

EXCELLENT book from a FANTASTIC series! This one would be great for CC Cycle 2 Week 17, for learning about Degas!


These Anholt Artists books are also very sweet storybook-style books about artists. Not as many facts, but excellent as an introduction.

Great picture-book introduction to Degas. CC Cycle 2 Week 17.

Week 18 Morisot:

I needed help with pronunciation of her name! Do you? If so, this is very helpful!

There is a short video about a Morisot painting available here at Christies (related to the sale of the painting being described) that discusses her technique and how it relates to other Impressionist artists.


If you’re looking for a good resource for images of Morisot’s work, these two sites seems to have a good selection:

Review Games

I printed off all of Melody Stroud’s History sentence cards from CC Connected, cut them up, shuffled all the weeks that we’ve been through so far and handed them to my kiddos to sort into complete sentences. This was even more challenging for them than I thought it might be, so I go involved in “helping” them figure it out (in the sense that “helping” means handing my daughter a card every once in a while when she knew what was next but couldn’t actually seem to see the card, or the sense that “helping” means handing stacks of cards my daughter had put in order to my son with instructions to “double check and make sure we got it right”). It probably took nearly an hour, but they got a GREAT review of the history sentences in the process! We’ll be doing this exercise again soon!

This post is linked to:

Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood Solagratiamom™

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 15 and 16

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 15 Week 16

This is the time of year in our family when a couple of things typically happen:  1) We’re just really getting back into the school “groove” and I start to feel good about what we’re accomplishing and 2) tax season hits.

In some past life that I occasionally have flashbacks of, I was a CPA who had VERY, VERY little to do with taxes. I spent most of my time (and by that, I mean 50-80 hours/week) auditing fairly large, often publicly-traded companies. I won’t bore you with the details. I’ll just skip to the end of the story . . . I don’t do that any more.

Okay, if you want more details (skip on down if you don’t), I resigned because by husband operates his own business (now businesses) and needed more accounting and office management than I could provide him after exerting all my energy on someone else’s business. I resigned, got pregnant, felt yucky, had a baby, and now I exert all my energy on children and homeschool and my husband still needs more accounting and office management than I’m able to provide. See how well that worked out for him? One less income, more mouths to feed, same pitiful amount of attention. Have I mentioned that my husband is wonderful? Consequently, I really am always trying to balance it out, and at this time of year, the balance tips in his favor. I also help out another CPA doing business taxes at this time of year. So, more time on taxes and business = less time on cool CC stuff and blogging.

It only lasts for a few weeks, and then the scales will tip back the other direction.

Review Games

Awesome and Simple Memory Master Sticker Sheets! Great way for kids to see how they're doing!

I don’t think we’re actually going to Memory Master this year, but I like to act like we’re still shooting for it so we still push ourselves in review. I made the kids some sheets to keep up with what they’ve mastered and what they haven’t, based on what this CC mom had done.  When they can answer the review question with absolutely no assistance, they get a sticker. And, because I am not above bribery (although I’m not usually prone to it, either), I offered them a chocolate chip for every 5 in a row they can get. Again, we got in a LOT of review in exchange for some stickers and a couple (really, just a couple . . . we need to do a lot more review!) of chocolate chips. You can download a copy for yourself by clicking on the image to the right, or by visiting the printables page.

This week, I decided that we needed a new review game at home to spice things up! I’ve seen Jenga versions of CC review games in abundance, so I decided to go with one of those. Like the CC mom at this blog, I did this the “quick and dirty” way . . . I just used a sharpie and wrote on my Jenga pieces. It’s fast, it doesn’t throw the balance of the blocks off, and you can just ignore it if you want to play Jenga and NOT review CC. The only difference I made, was that I did not write the weeks on my blocks, just the subjects. I didn’t want to be locked in to which weeks we were reviewing. I’d rather create piles of my CC memory review card by subject and then just draw from them based on what’s written on the block that you pull. There are 54 pieces in a complete Jenga set, so I just dealt them evenly into 7 stacks, and then any extras went into the stacks that I think we struggle more with (History sentences, Geography, etc. I avoided extra blocks for Timeline and Math, since we repeat those each cycle already.) After that, it was easy and fun and I ended up taking it to class with us and using it there, as well.

Jenga aside, do you know what my kids’ favorite way of reviewing this past week was? Using a card game that came in a Chic-Fil-A kids meal. My son got it as a prize for bringing his Bible and looking up his memory verse in his Wednesday night class at church (I love his teachers – encouraging Bible literacy in your Kindergarten class rocks!). It’s called “Cattle Drive,” but basically it’s just “War” with a smaller cow-themed deck of cards. My kids don’t play war all that fast (it’s just never occurred to them) and they’re totally used to using a game to review CC, so when I was asking them how they wanted to review last week, my son suggested this game and said they’d just answer a CC question on each turn. The loser (lowest number card) of the turn got to read the question for the winner (highest number of card). They reviewed a good chunk of CC that morning over breakfast this way . . . and the only effort it required on my part was pulling out our CC memory cards. Winner!


COOL book! Reader can "choose their path" through the book and get an overview of World War I. Available in hardcopy or an interactive Kindle version.I recommended this WWI book in my last post before we’d really had a chance to use it. Now that we’ve had it and used it on our Kindle, I’m going to give this book a second shout out. I’m also going to recommend the WWII book. I think this book would work well in hard copy, as well, but we REALLY enjoyed it on our Kindle. It’s nice that we can walk through just a “path” or two and then put the book down and come back to it later.  I’ve found it particularly amusing to hear my children advocate for choosing paths of totally different risk-levels (My son:  “Skip the additional training, go straight to the front!!” vs My daughter: “Let’s stay in the U.S. and see if/when they decide to join the war.”). I will warn you that, as would often happen in war, a great deal of the paths don’t end well – you die, your lungs are damaged for the rest of your life, etc., but they aren’t gruesome. 

Super COOL book! Reader can "choose their path" through the book and get an overview of World War II. In hardcopy or an interactive Kindle version. The first time we chose a path that resulted in our character dying, my children stopped and looked at me. They don’t often (ever!) read books that don’t have happy endings, so this was a new experience. Not a bad one, though. Wars are NOT warm and fuzzy experiences, and while my natural tendency is to focus on heart-warming or heroic stories like these:

  • the Christmas Truce of WWI,
  • Nicholas Winton (who was responsible for the Czech Kindertransport of WWII that saved 669 children from concentration camps),
  • or the Little Ships of Dunkirk where 700 privately owned boats (we’re talking fishing boats, ferries, and yachts) sailed across the English channel and assisted in rescuing 338,000 French and English troops who had been cut off from the rest of the forces and trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk

. . . those stories aren’t representative of the whole experience. These interactive books have done a good job of helping me to really explain to my children how horrible war can be without it being a traumatizing experience.

If you enjoy the Horrible Histories videos, here’s a link to a playlist of WWII related videos. While we did find these interesting, I didn’t find them to be as educational as they have been on other subjects.

I find these Crash Course History videos very interesting and educational. I almost always learn something I didn’t know or hear a perspective that I haven’t thought of. For the WWII video, I’m going to say that it’s generally not appropriate for elementary-aged kiddos. Preview it and make your own call. There’s just too much about WWII that is gruesome (and captured in photo and film) for young kids, plus there’s some language and imagery here that I would prefer my kiddos not to see (and there’s so much information covered so quickly, I think they’d struggle with digesting it, anyway).  For adults, and high-school students, this is just what it says – a crash course in WWII . . .

There is, of course, also a crash course in WWI. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think it’s appropriate for younger kiddos. It’s less gruesome, but still may not be something your younger children will be able to follow (or that you want them to watch).


Here’s a way to illustrate all three of Newton’s laws of motion using matchbox cars:

This video is a nice little overview of Newton’s First Law of motion:

The following video elaborates on Newton’s first law of motion and defines and illustrates different kinds of forces.


This awesome CC mom uses a different tune than we use in our community, but I love how she integrates hand motions into her geography songs. The hand motions often help me remember which countries are where!

Week 16 Balkans:

Week 15 Middle East:

Fine Art

I wasn’t able to find many resources for Gainsborough (week 15), but of course the resources for Monet are nearly unending! Here are my absolute favorites!

I keep recommending the books and videos in this “Getting to Know . . . ” series by Mike Venezia because I think they are so good! Again, the video is just cost prohibitive to purchase (check your library!), but the book is reasonable, and Monet is an artist that you and your children will enjoy revisiting year-after-year.

Love this whole "Getting to Know . . . " series! This one is AWESOME for Cycle 2 Week 16 about Monet!

This is both an excellent book and video. It’s sweet with lots of great information about Monet, as told by a little girl who visits his art and his historic home.

Lovely book for learning about Monet! CC Cycle 2 Week 16Sweet DVD for learning about Monet! CC Cycle 2 Week 16


These two books were new to us, this year. They’re great for pre-school and early elementary students. They contain easily understood information about Monet on well-illustrated pages. There are more in-depth biographies at the end of both books (but if you’re family is like ours, you children start to lose interest at that point). The first book, “Monet Paints a Day” has boxes on each page that are separate from the story-line but contain great information about the artist. I liked having the option to add in more elaborate information as I read.

Great book for learning about Monet for preschool or early elementary! CC Cycle 2 Week 16 Great book for learning about Monet for preschool or early elementary! CC Cycle 2 Week 16

This book was also a new discovery this year. It is EXCELLENT! Lots of good information about Monet and the Impressionist movement are woven through the story, and I loved that this book focused on paintings that we aren’t as familiar with.

Great book for learning about Monet for elementary kids! CC Cycle 2 Week 16


Biography has a nice biography and a nice brief biographical video about Monet.

This is an interesting video about Monet, that focuses on his garden at Giverny.

One last note for those of you that live in the Middle Tennessee area. The Frist Center for the Arts in Nashville (free for children under 18, $10 for adults + parking) will be hosting an exhibit entitled “Looking East” through May 11, 2014. The pieces are on loan from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. The purpose of the exhibit is to illustrate how Japanese art influenced other artists across the globe . . . after the U.S. restored trade with Japan (see Timeline Week #18). During Japan’s Isolation (see Timeline Week #15), Western artists weren’t able to see what was going on there, so after Japan re-opened its borders to the world (thanks to the work of U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry, see CC History Sentence from Cycle 1, Week 10), there was a shift in modern art around 1872. How cool to see our Timeline and Fine Art illustrated for us in one place! Japanese art will be on display beside paintings and prints of Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch and the furniture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Two of those artists – Claude Monet and Edgar Degas are covered in our current (Cycle 2) fine arts! It’s rare to get to see our history grammar and art illustrated this way, so take advantage of it, if you can!

This post is linked to:

Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood Solagratiamom™