Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review - The Science of Seasons

The Science of Seasons Book

The Science of Seasons is a new science storybook by Jennifer Guest.

I love Jennifer's website at Guest Hollow and the huge amount of homeschooling information she shares. I was excited to hear that she was writing and illustrating a children's science book and Jennifer gave me a Kindle copy of her book to review.

I read The Science of Seasons out loud to my four children ages 6-11. My older children learned some new information but I would guess that the younger children enjoyed it the most. I would guess that the target age is 2nd to 3rd grade but it is a book that can be used with multiple ages. Actually, even I learned some things from this book.

The book explains why we have seasons, how seasons change, and some of the special things about each season. In the story, the eldest sister is sharing what she learned with her younger brother and sister. The concepts are explained simply and clearly. The 50+ pages are also beautifully illustrated in vibrant color. I like that the girls are dressed in lovely feminine dresses in most of the pictures.

My children are accustomed to reading science books that contain evolution and are quick to say "That is not true." But they didn't need to say that in this book. The Science of Seasons is a God-honoring science book and a refreshing alternative to the majority of science story books for children.


The Science of Seasons storybook also has a companion Activity book to go along with it. I have not yet used this with my children but I think it will greatly enhance the story book.

The Activity Book is no simple coloring book (though it does include a few coloring pages.) There is lots of full-color cut-out models, games,  and paper doll puppets. There is pages to be filled out and added to a "seasons notebook" for the child to have a reminder of their study. There is sections on temperature, maps, vocabulary words, recipes, and activities from other cultures. Jennifer throws in some spelling tips, art ideas, geography facts, and a little math. Only a few additional supplies are needed such as crayons, string, ice, and construction paper. The book is designed with blank pages so that items can be cut out without messing up the next page.

By the time I finished flipping through the activity book, I knew that my children would gain much more from The Science of Seasons by utilizing the Activity book as well. The activities would help cement the information taught in Science of Seasons. Plus it is just the kind of book my children would love to work through with their scissors and glue.

Science curriculum

Jennifer went even further and designed an elementary science curriculum based on the Science of Seasons storybook and activity book. She added many more books and activities to make a 14-week course complete with day by day lesson plans. The curriculum is free and found on the Guest Hollow website.

The Science of Seasons is available at Guest Hollow as an e-book OR a softcover. The Activity book is also available as a softcover or a printable pdf. You can also find the books on Amazon.

I received free copies of these books but all opinions in this review are my own.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hog Maw Casserole

As a lover of one pot meals, this recipe from my friend Regina S. has become a favorite - for the cook and the family. I cube bread crusts and keep them in the freezer for this recipe.

This is a favorite for Sunday lunch. There is nothing better than walking into the house after church to the smell of Hog Maw Stuffing Casserole.

Some might be saying "Hog Maw? What is that?" And maybe you don't want to know.

Another friend, Regina R. shared a tutorial on hog maw last year. This Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy might be one of those recipes you have to grow up on to appreciate. My mom always used the recipe in the Mennonite Community Cookbook.

The difference of this recipe from my mom's is that it contains bread cubes. We love the addition. And though it can be stuffed in the traditional pig stomach - I never do. I just place it in a casserole dish and cover it with foil. Easy.

I am sharing the recipe as Regina S. shared it with me though I only use these measurements as a guide. Basically I start with a large bowl and just start adding ingredients. Usually I end up with enough for two casserole dishes - which is perfect because my family loves to have plenty of leftovers.

Regina adds several slices of cooked and chopped bacon on top. I let it out and didn't seem to miss it though I'm sure it would be delicious. Bacon makes everything better.

Hog Maw Casserole
adapted from Regina S.

1 onion, chopped
1 small cabbage, chopped
2 cups diced potatoes
2 cups bulk sausage, raw
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 slices of bread, cubed

Beat eggs; add milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over bread cubes. Stir in cabbage, onion, potatoes, and sausage. Cover and bake at 400 for 60 minutes.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April Garden Plans

March didn't feel much like spring in this part of the country - but April has given us spring sunshine. I find it hard to stay indoors on a sunny day in April and it has been rather easy for my children to twist my arm and ask for a little time outdoors before they started their math.

Every spring, I think of the pioneer families who, before the days of super markets, glass canning jars, and freezers, subsisted on the wrinkled root crops from the cellar and stored grain during the winter. I can imagine the joy in finding that first spear of asparagus or dandelion greens and know that my family has survived another winter.

Today we can buy fresh lettuce, strawberries, and tomatoes all year long—but there is still something special about the herald of spring and the promise of food from my own garden. I love to see the new green shoots, like this rhubarb plant, poke out of the soil.

I know that we are already halfway through April. But I was spending my time outside enjoying April instead of writing about it. I have accomplished many of my April goals, as well as all the things from my March list that I had not completed earlier.

These are the tasks on my April Gardening List for my zone 6 garden.

1. Clean up the perennial beds and top-dress with compost and lime.

Ed mulched my flower beds with chopped leaves in the fall but there is a few weeds that managed to squeeze in anyway. I'd like to put some more mulch down and hopefully have no more weeding this summer. Last year my flower beds were totally neglected. We'll just say it was the baby's fault.

2. Divide any crowded perennials and prune the roses that I missed last fall.

3. Plant beets, carrots, onions, sugar peas, lettuce, spinach, and potatoes in the garden.

Often we are the last to get our garden planted since it is located in a low area and often stays wet for a long time in the spring. But this spring has been dry, too dry, and we were able to get all of the early spring things planted in the first week of April.

4. Set out broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower plants in the garden and cover with rowcover.

For now, I have the plants covered with milk jugs. I cut the bottom out of the jug and push it into the soil and have a mini green house. When it gets warmer and the cabbage butterflies appear, I will remove the milk jugs and cover with row cover.

5. Uncover the strawberry plants from their winter mulch of straw and plant a new row of strawberries to replace the row that is being smothered in Canadian thistles.

6. Relish fresh asparagus and the first spring salad.

What are you doing in your garden this month?

And if you are from Georgia or southern California and relishing freshly picked strawberries—I don't want to know.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Picture Books on Flight

One hundred and forty-eight years ago, on April 16, 1867, a baby boy was born who would make his mark history. Wilbur Wright, along with his brother Orville, invented the first successful airplane and realized man's dream of flying. The beginning of air travel includes amazing stories of creativity and courage. 

While there are many books that tell the stories of these events, I searched for some of the best illustrated picture books at our library. These books were designed for elementary students (grades 2-5) but I enjoyed them as much as my children.

Wilbur and Orville Wright had a younger sister, and this book tells the story of the famous inventors from her perspective. While she may never be as famous as her brothers, this story gives credit to the quiet woman who supported her brothers. Superb illustrations add realism to the story.

Will and Orv by Walter A. Schulz

The Wright's first successful flight told through the eyes of a young boy from Kitty Hawk who witnessed the event. Based on the historic record of the December 1903 event.

The muted paintings by the Provensens fit perfectly with the story of French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot. After many failures, Bleriot succeeded in being the first person to fly across the English Channel. This is a story of someone who is determined and learned from his mistakes.

Flight by Robert Burleigh

Lindbergh's historic flight across the Atlantic is told in short sentences that show the drama of the event. But the real thrill of this book is the stunning illustrations.

Night Flight by Robert Burleigh

A new retelling of Amelia Earhart's solo flight across the Atlanic is told with vivid words and paintings. The many dangers and problems Earhart encounters lend suspense to the story.

The Hindenburg by Patrick O'Brien

The lovely airships (also known as zeppelins) were actually invented before the airplanes and at one time were considered the best way to travel across the ocean. That all ended in 1937 with the tragic explosion of the Hindenburg, the largest and fastest airship ever made. The history of the airships, detailed drawings, and lovely artwork are included with this story of Hugo Eckener and his amazing airship.

I doubt the Wright brothers ever imagined that their innovations in flight would one day enable man to travel as far as the moon. This excellent book tells the story of the historic journey of Apollo 11. The poetic text combines with amazing watercolors to replay the incredible event. Don't miss this one.


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