A New Beginning

Act II: A New Beginning | Sowing Joyhttps://sowingjoy.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/act-ii-a-new-beginning/

I posted this a few days ago from a joint blog my husband and I started a while back. There is a lot going on in our world right now. :)

Homeschool Log| May 17-23

My boys are two and four. They aren’t quite old enough for “school” yet, but we like to do a lot of learning around here.  Although we don’t have a required curriculum or set schedule, I do try to provide lots of rich learning opportunities.  Sometimes learning happens thorough things I set up, other times, the boys figure it out all on their own. I thought it would be fun to chronicle some of the highlights each day from the school of life.  And these are my highlights, if the boys were writing, they may pick totally different things! :D

Usborne book shipment

5/19 Tuesday

We spent a lot of today looking at the fantastic shipment of books we got in for the year! :)  Samuel has been enjoying reading about Mummies and Pyramids and Emergency Services. Timothy has been having fun with his truck sticker book and reading Busy Trucks on the Go.  One of the characters looks like a friend of ours, so he has named them Silly Mark and Alex. It has been a reading kind of day – which means lots of learning!

DSC075725/20 Wednesday

DSC07574This morning for worship, we were reading about the Isrealite’s escape from Egypt.  As Samuel is interested in Africa, and we have been reading about Mummies and Pyramids in Egypt, we took a few minutes to look up Egypt in our atlas and found the Red Sea, the Nile River and even where mount Sinai was.

As we were driving to see Daddy’s new office, we saw lots of construction vehicles working on a road nearby.  Samuel quickly noticed the hydraulics system on the diggers and was talking about how they work.  He learned this when we were reading one of his new books yesterday.  It was cool to see things clicking for him. :)

Amma (Grandma) visited today, and Samuel found her Snap-n-Learn Number Bugs in the car and wanted to play with them. We had fun doing some basic addition by putting together different colored bodies and finding the right number for the head. It was a lot of fun. :)

5/21 Thursday

Samuel made a “whisper machine”.  He taped a bunch of toilet paper tubes together.  He discovered that if he held it up to someone’s ear, he only had to whisper very softly for them to hear what he was saying.  We talked about how sound travels and what makes the whisper machine work.

5/22 Friday

Anna HibiscusWe started reading Anna Hibiscus, about a little girl who lives in Africa. “Amazing Africa.” We talked about family structures and how Anna lives with so many people in her house.  We talked about all Samuel’s aunties and uncles. When we were done reading the first chapter, we tried to figure out where Anna Hibiscus might live.  Because the author is from Nigeria, we guessed there.  We looked it up on a map and saw where it was compared to Egypt.  We read a lot of things in our atlas about that area in Africa.

Samuel decided he wants to write letters to someone in Africa – preferably Anna Hibiscus, but if she can’t do it, someone else his age would work just fine. ;) We wrote the first letter and he’s eager to get it off in the mail (I happen to know lots of missionaries that might know a family or two we can write to).  Then we looked at Australia in the atlas – he thought that was pretty cool too!

*This post contains affiliate links to amazon.com. I am an independent consultant for Usborne Books and More. This post contains links to my personal store.

Daria World Music for Children


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Instruments, music books, CDs, videos, coloring pages, crafts and more – all about world music! Wow!

I was looking for resources to compliment the Early Explorer’s world music theme from Little Passports, and I was blown over when I found dariamusic.com.  My search is over.  I have everything I need. :) Daria is a children’s performer who loves to travel the world. Her website is an amazing archive of instruments from all over the world.

I really like the page of crafts and coloring pages. You can make instruments with recycled materials from around your house.  If you have a colorer, you can print out coloring pages.  She also has an instrument section where you can listen to sound clips of the instruments.

There is so much more on her site than I could possibly cover here.  If you are learning about world music or cultures with children, you have to check it out!!

Have you found other great resources for exploring music around the world? Please share in the comments below!

Homeschool Family Tree Resource

I just found a fantastic resource for our homeschool! Samuel (4yrs) and I have been learning more about our family history – what a great place to start history lessons. I am working on organizing our study a bit more.  In my quest for useful tools, I found Familytreekids.com.  It’s such a wonderful starting place!

It has all sorts of resources and ideas for learning more about your family history.  It’s great for older kids to use on their own, or for younger kids (like in our case), parents can find some great ideas and pritable worksheets and activities to do with their kids.

Our plan is to print out the family tree and spend about a month (give or take) working on each branch. We plan to use some of the interview questions they provide as well as many of the other great resources.

If you are working on family history or genealogy as part of your homeschool curriculum, I highly recommend this website. :)

Isabella: Girl on the Go – Book Review


While looking for a book to compliment the Early Explorer’s landmarks unit from Little Passports, I stumbled upon this gem.  Isabella is a little girl with a big imagination.  While her father solicits her help for things from gardening to painting to fixing her fort, Isabella imagines away her duties as she digs in tombs of kings (Pyramids of Giza), builds a wall (the Great wall of China) to protect her people, and so much more.  After her eclectic world travels, at the end of the day, Isabella discovers that the most wonderful place is her home.

Isabella: Girl on the Go is a book of imagination. I can see my son so much in Isabella – both in her response to chores and in her incredible imagination. I am a fan of realistic illustrations in children’s books.  The artwork in this book isn’t particularly realistic, but it fits the flavor of this book quite well. I find some of the wording a bit awkward.  For example, Isabella is referred to as “the girl” and, her father as “the father”, so phrases read like this: “‘Then who will help me tend the garden?’ asked the father.” There are also several puns in the book.  This makes reading a lot more enjoyable for parents and older children, but again, some of them are a bit awkward.

As a stand alone book, I would say this one is . . . meh.  I would give it three out of five stars.  It’s not bad, but I wouldn’t have any reason to get excited about it.  However, it is a perfect companion for the first unit in the Early Explorer’s curriculum!  It introduces children to four of the five landmark souvenirs that come with the unit and all but one of the landmarks in the book are on the Little Passports wall map! It is a great way to open conversation. Samuel asked questions like, “Why does she paint at the Eiffel tower?”, “What is a mummy?”, or “Why was she a warrior?”  It also opened the door for creative play as Samuel promptly stood his post as Lady Liberty. I also really appreciate the section in the back that gives a brief description of all the places mentioned in the book as well as explanations of the characters Isabella pretended to be.

My only true disappointment about this book is that I didn’t have it when Samuel first received his package from Max and Mia at Little Passports.

Bottom line: For the average 3-7 year-old, this is a fun read, but you could take it or leave it.  However, for an Early Explorer with Little Passports, this is a MUST HAVE for your library. 

If you haven’t heard about the Early Explorer’s program by Little Passports, or if you want more supplemental ideas, check out my review here.

*All opinions are my own.  I was not compensated in any way for this review, nor was I asked to write it. This post contains no affiliate links*


Taj Mahal

Photo by Subhadip Mukherjee

Photo by Subhadip Mukherjee

When Samuel expressed his interest in learning more about the Taj Mahal, I immediately imagined the captivating story and accompanying activities I would write for him. Then, I came back to reality.  The only thing I knew about the beautiful structure was it’s name and that it stands in India. Not much to go on for a thrilling tale. After realizing the hours it would take to research and write for such a venture, I settled for compiling information from other sources.  Here are some of the best resources I have bumped into about the Taj Mahal.  If you are using the Early Explorers program by Little Passports, or are investigating the Taj for any reason, you may find some of these links and ideas helpful.  Are there any other fun ideas or resources you and your kids have enjoyed about this captivating palace? Please share them in the comments.  I would love to add more to this list!

Start here if you, like me, know nothing about the Taj Mahal.  A little dense for the youngest learners, this a great place for parents or older kids (8 and up) to brush up on your Taj history. It also has great pictures for all ages.

My favorite intro story to the Taj Mahal from PBS – This is well written and leaves out unnecessary violence – great for younger learners.

Tour the Taj Mahal with Google 360 degree street view map.

Taj Mahal Photo Gallery.

Guided tour of the Taj Majal
Engineering the Taj Mahal 
Basic Introduction and Fun Facts – this video requires reading, but is fun. :)

Taj Mahal Coloring Pages
Cut out, color and build a paper model

Continued Learning
Here are some other ideas of things you might explore to expand the learning experience across subjects.
Gems used in construction
Learn more about working Elephants


Little Pasports’ Early Explorers Review

Are you homeschooling? Do you have a child between the ages of three and twelve? Does your child enjoy receiving mail? Are you looking for a fun way to teach geography? You should consider a Little Passports subscription!   Early Explorers helps preschoolers (3-5) explore all seven continents and corresponding landmarks, music, animals and more. The World Edition uses letters, souvenirs, and activities from Sam and Sofia to show children ages 5-10 countries around the world. Designed for 7-12 year-olds, the U.S. Edition provides logs and activity journals for learning about all 50 states.

I’ve been eyeing Little Passports for a while, ready to subscribe as soon as Samuel seemed ready to tackle the world edition.  Little Passport’s set up seemed perfect for his learning style.  I’m sure you can imagine my delight when Little Passports launched their newest program, Early Explorers, and Samuel was smack dab in the middle of the suggested age range (3-5)! How perfect!

The first month, Samuel was super excited to get his bright orange suitcase in the mail.  We immediately hung up the big, colorful wall map and explored the continents, singing the contents song. Samuel stuck his stickers on his suitcase and eagerly filled out the passport in one go. We were excited for the next month’s package!

The first “regular” (meaning non-introductory) month came a week or two ago. It included another passport/workbook, a couple stickers, a totally awesome flashlight adventure, and five little figures of famous world landmarks.  Samuel, again, was excited about the passport, figures, and the flashlight adventure . . . SO cool! However, my knowledge thirsty little boy was left dry and I was left feeling inadequate. There was no information about any of the landmarks. My own lack of world knowledge was highlighted as I simply had very little to say about Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.  I could recognize the Sphinx, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I knew very little about them, and I felt like an explorer without a compass (or GPS if I want to be all modern ;) ).

My understanding is that the World and US editions have additional online content to expand the adventures for inquiring minds.  I wonder if there are plans to roll out some of these things for Early Explorers in the future.  I hope that I just happen to be jumping in at the brand-new, baby stages and Little Passports hasn’t had a chance to show us everything it’s got.  Max, Mia and Toby are the characters we see every month but they are fairly abstracted from the rest of the program. They send a picture to match the theme, but with no explanation, just the photo. The absence of a story or letter was the biggest disappointment. The map has landmarks that aren’t named anywhere. Despite these shortcomings, I think the program is a great way to spark interest.  I find that, with my little one, imagination and curiosity needs a little spark, and learning takes flight. For me, it’s a matter of knowing I’m going to have to do some footwork on my own. 

Bottom Line: Early Explorers is not a complete curriculum, but it’s a fantastic base to bring out the little world traveler in your preschooler.  Because this is a monthly subscription, the monetary risk isn’t as high as other homeschool curriculums.  You can pay up front, but you can also go month-by-month, taking things at your own pace or stopping altogether if the program simply isn’t a fit.  It’s great.

If you like the program, but don’t want to spend time searching for additional materials, feel free to use some of the resources below that we have enjoyed. I will be adding as I go along. Please share any great activities or resources you enjoy and we can add them to the list for other explorers.

Month 1: Introduction
The Continents Song

Month 2: Landmarks
Any of the landmarks can be constructed out of play dough, toothpicks, cardboard, popsicle sticks or any other materials you may have around.
Isabella: Girl on the Go
Taj Mahal

Month 3: Music
Daria – World Music for Children

*All opinions are my own.  I was not compensated in any way for this review, nor was I asked to write it. There are no affiliate links*