Critical Thinking Meets Science

by Dawn Oaks on November 11, 2015 · 0 comments

Over the last 4 years, our family has had a chance to review many homeschool materials from complete curriculum and supplemental resources to things that are just fun.  This latest review touches on so many areas that it is really hard to put into a bucket so you will need to hang in there with me.

Surfing the Net Science from The Critical Thinking Co. crosses over so many different lines of learning that I just can’t wait to share more about this fun resource and how you might want to use it with your children.

We used Surfing the Net Science with our 11 year old who is right at the upper end of the recommended age range of Grades 3-6.  My greatest regret is that we didn’t run into this resource sooner.

Surfing the Net Science is a softcover 250 page book.  Beyond that I have trouble putting it in a box as it touches on so many skills and areas of learning. While using this product, our son:

  • Learned about internet safety and sites that were kid friendly;
  • Used critical thinking skills in determining the best way to do internet searches and glean information from the sites he visited;
  • Learned how to organize that information in different formats; and
  • Built on his science knowledge.

When considering Surfing the Net Science, it has a lot of the elements of an elementary survey science course that incorporates chapters on Animals, Atmosphere, Ecosystems, Energy, Geology, Plants, and Space. The big difference is that this is no science textbook.  The structure of this book is to provide targeted areas of research to the student and then guided tools and internet addresses to explore and obtain the information the student is to gather.

Surf the Internet Science 1

In using this book, the chapters can be followed in the order presented or you can choose which chapter to focus on based on your child’s interest. The learning pathway that your child journeys will follow the same pattern in each chapter.  This curriculum has the child:

  • Define: the student gathers general information using keyword searches on the topic through exploring text, videos, images, and charts through their internet searches.
  • Describe: the student uses keyword searches once again in searching for more specific information on the topic again using text, videos, images, and charts found through surfing the internet.
  • Analyzing and Synthesizing: the student uses the information gathered in the first two steps of defining and describing to complete a graphic organizer.  A further way of digesting the information is to then take the material from the organizer and write a paragraph about the information learned.
  • Expanding Knowledge: The student now goes back to the internet to do additional searches on specific aspects of the topic and uses this information to write some additional paragraphs.
  • Investigating: This final step allows the student to come up with their own question of interest about the topic being studied and complete additional research.

In addition to the activity sheets related to the steps above, there are also Challenge questions interspersed throughout to add an extra level of complexity especially to the student at the recommended age range for this book.

Things We Loved About This Curriculum:

I have to admit that I have really avoided using a lot of internet searching with our youngest.  There is so much out on the internet that is not appropriate for children.  However, computers and the internet are not going away.  These are a part of my son’s life and always will be, so he really needs to learn to safely navigate.  Internet safety is taught through the proper use of keywords and the directed links as the child enters into this world of internet surfing.

Before we even began the first chapter, The Critical Thinking Co. provided a wonderful introductory video that can be shown to your child as a tutorial on the use of search engines and the proper way to do keyword searches and use bookmarks.

The combination of learning internet searches with covering solid science concepts makes you feel like you are rolling multiple lessons into one.  This is magnified to an even greater degree when you consider the critical thinking skills that are used in sifting through the information viewed and choosing what is the most important to incorporate into their work.

The use of graphical organizers and many open-ended or paragraph responses allowed my son to really express his thoughts after doing the research.  Many times he felt like a detective on the mad dash to solving a mystery.  However, it was in slowing down to complete the activity sheets that he truly sifted through the information to bring it all together in a meaningful way.

The biggest thing that made this resource a great addition to our homeschool library is that our son loved it!

My only regret is that there is not a Level 2 to this book that I am aware of.  Our other children did not learn solid research skills until they were in high school writing research papers.  This made quality research a dreaded task rather than an adventure.

Surfing the Net Science can certainly be used by a student working individually at home or can be used in a group setting.  Additionally, I found great flexibility in how this resource would fit into many different approaches to homeschooling including Charlotte Mason, Delight Directed / Passion Driven, Unschooling, and as a tool to teach research skills that can certainly be used in more traditional courses in the future.

As always feel free to read the other reviews on Surfing the Net Science from the Schoolhouse Review Crew as well as reviews that are also being done on Fun-Time Phonics!, The Basics of Critical Thinking, U.S. History Detective Book 1, and Practical Critical Thinking.

The Critical Thinking Company Review

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Eating Your Homework with Ann McCallum ~ Review

by Dawn Oaks on November 11, 2015 · 0 comments

Instead of letting the dog eat your child’s homework, Ann McCallum provides some really neat resources to let your child eat his or her own homework.  Yup, that’s right.  We recently received a copy of Eat Your U.S. History Homework from Ann McCallum Books to use and review.  It was a lot of fun and certainly the most delicious days of U.S. History study we have done in a while.

About the book:

Eat Your U.S. History Homework: Recipes for Revolutionary Minds is not only fun and educational, but it is simply beautifully put together.  This is a hardback children’s book that has a full glossy image cover as well as a paper book jacket.  The book is just under 50 pages in length including the history excerpts, recipes, history review, glossary, and index. The author’s enthusiasm for her work is seen right in the introduction.  I loved this quote from the intro as it really encompasses what I have always hoped that we are accomplishing in our homeschool.

“But wait, history doesn’t need to be deadly dull.  In fact, it is anything but boring when you munch and crunch your way through it!… Get ready to eat your history homework.”

 The physical beauty of this book does not end with the covers.  The illustrations are fun for any child’s eye,  accents rather than overruns the content, and just make you smile.


The beauty of this book does not end with just its physical appearance – that is just icing on the cake as some of my favorite bakers would say.

Eat Your U.S History has great overview content with some interesting facts related to:

  • The First Thanksgiving
  • The Settling of the Thirteen Colonies
  • The French and Indian War
  • Plantation life during pre-Civil War days in the Deep South
  • The Revolutionary War
  • The 4th of July and Independence Day

Here are some of the little kernels of U.S. History we learned from our time in Eating our U.S. History Homework

The first “Thanksgiving” feast lasted for three days

The colonists came from not just England, but also France, Spain, and the Netherlands

Hoecakes were actually cooked on a hoe next to the field that slaves would have been working in

Patriots during the Revolutionary War did their planning in taverns and coffee houses.  Were these the original coffee clotches?

Our Thoughts:

Although Eat Your U.S. History Homework appears to be a children’s book, our 17 year had just as much fun as the rest of the family.  We loved exploring the recipes for Thanksgiving Succotash, Lost Bread, Southern Plantation Hoe Cakes, and Revolutionary Honey-Jumble Cookies.  Our favorite though was the Colonial Cherry-Berry Grunt!

This book and others in the series – Eat Your Math Homework and Eat Your Science Homework – would be great supplements to your regular homeschool curriculum or even as gifts during the upcoming holiday season.  When we can take out studies into the kitchen it is always a winner.  After all, as our 11 year old would say, cooking is a lifeskill cause a man has got to eat.  When we can learn along with the eating, this momma is happy.

As always check out the other reviews being posted by the other families with the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Ann McCallum Books Review

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Reformation Day Giveaway

November 9, 2015

On October 31, many commemorated what has become known as “Reformation Day.” Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to a church door on October 31, 1517 in Wittenburg, Germany, provoked a debate that resulted in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.  Regardless of what denomination most closely aligns with your personal faith, the […]

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Brinkman Adventures – Excitement and Truth

November 5, 2015

Learning about audiodrama and its many uses has been one of the grand adventures of our homeschooling and parenting journey.  We were first introduced to the Brinkman Adventures last year when we reviewed Season 2 of their adventures.  This review is about Season 3 and what we have learned in this last year about audiodrama. To […]

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Online Course Options with SDA

November 4, 2015

I was honestly excited when we were asked to review a course from Standard Deviants Accelerate.  These folks put fun into school and still hit on all the major points needed in a course to make it count. They have an array of different homeschool courses available.  For this review, we will be sharing our […]

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Classical Music and Your Homeschool

October 30, 2015

Over the years, I always vowed that I would incorporate more and more classical music into our plans.  Whether it is a crunch for time, a budget that has run out of budge for music lessons, or maybe even poor planning on my part, this just continues to be one of my homeschoool mom fails. […]

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The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and Your Homeschool

October 29, 2015

Like many other families, when we hear “Apologia Educational Ministries” our first thought goes to science.  However, over the years Apologia has really expanded out.  We were blessed to receive a review copy of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from them.  I call this a blessing as the one thing that really holds our school together […]

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A Product Review of IEWs Phonetic Zoo

October 28, 2015

With the abundance of curriculum companies available, there are some that you always think you will give a try based on the rave reviews, but just never do.  The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)has been one of those companies.  We have heard great things, but have not really gotten knee deep in their products. […]

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Lovin’ Great Body Care Products from Koru Naturals

October 22, 2015

A lot of the products that our family reviews fit nicely into the homeschool curriculum category, but this review is a bit different.  We recently received some great body care products from Koru Naturals.  Among the products that we received and used were their Skin Clear Creme, their Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, and their Emu […]

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Learning Geography by Drawing

October 21, 2015

Geography is one of those subjects that is useful, but not always exciting to study all by itself.  One of the products we have been reviewing during the last six weeks is Drawing Around the World: Europe published by Brookdale House.  As the name suggests, this curriculum combines the learning of European geography with the art […]

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