Friday, May 23, 2014

Preparing for Memorial Day

With Memorial Day approaching, we took a moment to recognize our veterans! With tons of flags in hand, Madeline and Sophie lined the walkway at Grandma's house.  

Flags ready!

Sophie would not give up her flag :)

After reading the Raiders' Ransom series, Madeline has an understanding of what war is. How people sacrifice themselves for the protection of others. Our family is filled with veterans, most of them with us only in spirit. But we honor them and all the veterans still living :)

With so many flags, I took a few home to line our walkway as well. At only $1 per flag, we stocked up! You can find these big, beautiful flags at Dollar Tree.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: Early Bird Gets the Worm by Bruce Lansky

Picture of Early Bird Gets the Worm by Bruce Lansky
My Goodreads win!

This little gem arrived in the mail, complete with creator Bruce Lansky's signature on the inside cover page.

Thank you so much, Mr. Lansky! What a delightful gift. 

This is the first wordless children's book we've read -- that's right, no words. How was I unaware of this genre? Children 3 to 6 read the illustrations and enjoy the story on their own or with their family. Sophie is thrilled to read just like her big sister!

Early Bird Gets the Worm follows a little bird on its worm finding adventure. Not every worm is what it seems, or as easy to catch as it looks! The ending is sweet and will warm the hearts of mamas and little ones alike. Use the book as a springboard to talk about birds, perseverance, the bond between mamas and babies, and feelings.

Sophie's little face was pure concentration on our first read through. She made me read it three times straight!

Even as a soon-to-be eight year old, Madeline wanted in on the fun! So she created a story, then another, and then another. It's so rewarding to see her reading to her younger sister :)

Finally Sophie decided she didn't want to share the her book anymore. Snatching it up, she headed to her favorite rocking chair.  Draped in her favorite blanket, she began "Once upon a time..."

So far, Sophie's read the book everyday {more than once a day} for the last week and a half. She is so exited about her new, shiny book. Though with all its use, it might not stay shiny for long!

Disclosure:  I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway! Receipt of an item free of charge does not guarantee a positive review. By choice, only quality products are shared with my readers -- the items that I love, enjoy, and use :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Growing Dramatically ~ Black Krim and Indigo Sun Tomatoes {Heirloom Grafted}

Goodness gracious, the Black Krim tomatoes grew over an inch in diameter this week! The larger tomatoes measure over 3" in diameter.

Black Krim Hybrid
Black Krim heirloom hybrid cluster of 3

Black Krim Hybrid Heirloom Tomato Cluster
Newer, bigger Black Krim cluster of 2

The Indigo Sun cherry tomato heirloom hybrid is covered with clusters like this one:

Indigo Sun Heirloom Grafted Hybrid
Indigo Sun heirloom heirloom grafted

Some of the clusters are ALMOST ripe. They're not bright yellow yet, still green. I couldn't resist and tried one but it was not sweet. Super juicy though. Can't wait until we taste our first ripe one!

End of the Year Curriculum Review: Writing

Scholastic Writing Curriculum Review via
The BEST teaching guide for writing

Scholastic Grade 2 Writing Curriculum

Hands down, this is the most fabulous series for writing curriculum! Writing is one of the few subjects that we use the same text for the entire school year. After seeing the progress made last year with Grade 1 Writing Curriculum, I will use ONLY this series for teaching writing. If you use it, prepare to be amazed at your child's progress.

Grade 2 Writing Curriculum Week-By-Week Lessons provides a year's worth of exercises. Each month has daily writing prompts. We cut and paste our writing prompts into a journal {composition book}. I highly recommend doing so, you will not believe the gains your child makes from the beginning of their journal to the end of the year.

After the month of writing prompts, there are four longer lessons -- one for each week of the month. A full page of directions explain how to present the assignment. Typically, Madeline brainstorms and fills out a planning page on the first day of the lesson. Then, the first draft is composed on the second day. And finally, Madeline self edits her work and turns it in for grading on the third day.

This book is comprehensive. In addition to the daily writing prompts and weekly assignments, you'll learn how to help your student achieve success! The front portion contains lots of tips for teaching writing. Also included are writing samples typical of the age range.

One of the best things in the book is the 'START' handout. No longer will you have a child that doesn't know what to write about. No more writer's block! The handout specifically gives students a formula for writing descriptive, interesting sentences and paragraphs.

The back has quite a few handouts including a brainstorm page for the weekly assignments, a list of commonly misspelled words, and checklists for students to edit their own work.

Originally, I purchased the Grade 1 book from Scholastic's website. However, our copies for Grades 2 and 3 came from Amazon used. Expect to pay around $7 for each copy plus $3 for shipping {about $10 total}.

Very inexpensive considering this is a reproducible book. Since it's meant to be photocopied, you can use it with as many children as you like!

Definitely! Grade 3 Writing Curriculum has already been ordered.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Top 5 Reasons Why We Homeschool in the Summer

Homeschooling is such a gift. Madeline absolutely THRIVES when she's learning. We've tried extended summer vacation vs. continuing to homeschool. Continuing lessons was the clear winner!

There are so many reasons we homeschool year round, it was hard to narrow it down! After much thought, here are my top five:

Homeschool Rocks! Reason #1:  The kids go stir crazy if we disrupt their daily routine. 
We made the mistake of taking the summer off between 1st and 2nd grade. Yikes! It wasn't pretty and the kids completely abandoned their normal patterns.

Eating at random hours, not sleeping consistently, getting agitated and flustered very easily. Lessons resumed after a month. All was once again right with the world.

Reason #2:  Our child WANTS to continue learning. We have so much fun homeschooling, burnout doesn't exist. 
To be honest, we take mini breaks all throughout the year. It takes us a lot less time to cover the same material a public school would, so we don't face burnout by year's end. No stressful exams or standardized testing. Quite the opposite, without homeschooling we often feel LOST and BORED!

Once a curriculum is finished and mastery is demonstrated, we just jump right into the next one. So it's not like we have one text for the whole year. Everything just seamlessly flows into the next.

During summer, our 'core subjects' per day are decreased. Instead of 4-6 subjects, we might only do 2-3. Extra time is devoted to art, especially the more complicated projects that have multiple steps and require several sessions to complete. So summer is different, new, and exciting!

Reason #3:  It's the perfect time to introduce unit studies! 

Free Egyptian Clipart Link via
FREE clip art source:  KingTutOne.Com

Sometimes you just want to immerse yourself in a subject. Right now, Madeline is super excited about our summer unit -- Ancient Egypt. When she saw the books I reserved from the library trickling in, she started reading right away! Just a bit more prep is needed and then we'll jump into all these fun activities:

  • Building pyramids
  • Preparing an Egyptian meal
  • Studying the gods and goddesses
  • Reading nonfiction books
  • Making papyrus-style paper
  • Creating maps
  • Dramatic play with paper dolls
  • Writing in hieroglyphics {Scored this book with a set of stamps for just $6}
  • Studying commerce and practicing bartering
  • Drawing Egyptian-style
  • Making mummies
  • Weekend trip to visit The Hall of Ancient Egypt at the Houston Museum of Natural Science 

Reason #4:  The real world doesn't stop just because it's summer. 
The opportunity to learn in the real world is one of my favorite things about homeschooling. But the real world seems to amp up during summer, not take a break.

Our homeschool peeps still want to get together. After polling book club members, no one wanted to break for summer! Discussions, creative activities, games, and crafts are just too fun to miss. Plus, all the kids love seeing their friends.

And then there's all the cultural venues -- taking advantage of extra summer attendance by introducing exciting new exhibits. The World's Largest Dinosaurs at the Perot. Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. So excited to tie in Archaeology with our Ancient Egypt unit!

Reason #5:  It's easy to forget what you've learned if you don't keep applying it!
Maybe this is more true for me than the kids, but I cannot remember anything from three months ago. It might be just too much to ask of the kids, too :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

End of Year Curriculum Review: Reading Comprehension

Spectrum Reading Grade 2
This is the second book in the Spectrum Reading series we've purchased. If you follow common core standards, this book is wonderful! If you aren't concerned with common core standards, you'll still be pleased with this book.

Spectrum Grade 2 teaches reading comprehension in an approachable, fun way. Every lesson is in a two-page format. A story is printed on the left {or first page} and the comprehension questions are printed on the right {or second page}.

Through the early primary years, learning to read well is one of my top 3 goals. If you can advance a child in reading and math, I feel like they can learn any other subject!

I credit Spectrum Reading and Modern Curriculum Press Phonics with Madeline's reading success. In tandem, they make a dynamite combination. This was the first year she could really read material on her own {chapter books}. She absolutely loves reading! It's easy to love when the right curriculum sets you up for success.

There is a great variety of reading subject matter. Grade 2 had both fiction and non-fiction stories. As the book progresses, the stories become longer with more paragraphs. We read about states, sports games, travel, family life, and animals. Madeline enjoyed learning about baseball and baseball cards. Her dad even took her to her first Rangers game :)

This book also contains an answer key. The pages are perforated so you can tear them out if you wish. We choose to leave the book intact to eliminate paper clutter. Simple, colorful illustrations usually accompany the stories.

Absolutely! We plan to continue with Spectrum Grade 3.

Supplemental Reading Comprehension/ Literature Units
Madeline also has reading comprehension exercises from her homeschool book club selections. I search for free reading guides online. If none are available from the publisher, sometimes units are available from Teachers Pay Teachers. If I still can't find a reading guide, I develop my own :)

My favorite units this year were: Chasing Vermeer, by B. Balliett, Literature Unit, 98 Total Pages!! and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren: Characters, Plot, and Setting.

New for Fall 2014
For extra practice activities, we plan to incorporate the Reading Comprehension section of Sylvan Super Reading Success. We've not used the Sylvan book before, but are really excited to give it a try!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors {Vocabulary & Bingo FREEBIES}

Wow, that was a fast read! 

Our homeschool book club {grades 3-6} read The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors for our May meeting. It's a fictional mystery with some fantasy thrown in.

At first, Madeline did not embrace the story. Every time we read one or two chapters, she wasn't eager to read more. That changed once events at Dr. Woo's worm hospital really got going ;)

From that point on, Madeline was hooked. Determined to keep reading until the book was finished! Even though the title is The Sasquatch Escape, the Sasquatch doesn't actually make an appearance for quite some time. We both wish he had appeared earlier!

The humor really picks up in the second half of the book. Sasquatch's escapades are HILARIOUS! The things he does will make you giggle and giggle.

Just toss out what you know about scary Bigfoot. Selfor's gentle giant is sweet, enjoys being cooed at like a baby, and loves his chocolate. You'll love him too.

Although the vocabulary wasn't overly challenging, there were many words new to Madeline. Since we purchased this book via Kindle, it was neat to be able to highlight the word and see the definition pop up!

Benjamin {Ben} Silverstein has been sent to spend the summer with his Grandpa Abe while his parents work out some troubles. Since the button factory closed, Buttonville isn't very exciting. Most families have moved away leaving the town deserted. And worse, the senior center is pretty much the only place to hang out and socialize.

Ben meets Pearl Petal, a girl whose family lives above the Dollar Store. Everyone in Buttonville calls her a troublemaker. But when Ben finds a injured baby dragon, he and Pearl see if the town's new worm doctor {Dr. Woo} can help.

During the visit to the worm hospital, Ben leaves the deadbolt open resulting in Sasquatch's escape. It's up to Ben and Pearl to locate the missing Sasquatch and bring him back to Dr. Woo's hospital - a hospital for Imaginary creatures!

What a bummer, there is no study guide for this book. Being type-A and all, I've been creating my own study guide. Expect another post with more activities once we meet for book club :)  

Enjoy my vocabulary and bingo freebies:

We'd rate The Sasquatch Escape 4 of 5 stars! It's a must-read for any child that loves mysteries, adventure, or animals.

Will we continue with the series? Most certainly!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

End of Year Curriculum Review: Vocabulary

Vocabulary:  240 Words Kids Need to Know Grade 3 by Scholastic

During the fall, it was evident Madeline was done reading level readers. But tackling the chapter books she wanted to read was difficult due to the more advanced vocabulary.

To read more challenging chapter books, I knew we'd have to start vocabulary lessons. Enter 240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need to Know: Grade 3. We began this book in January of this year {2014}.

Our vocabulary lessons definitely helped Madeline read more challenging material. This also meant we were able to jump to the next homeschool book club level, Grade 3 and up. Prior to vocabulary lessons, we were reading the Kinder - Grade 2 book club selections.

In the beginning of the book, most lists have four lessons. Some lists have only two or three. Total, the book has 24 word lists. Depending on your pace, you could finish the book in a semester or even over the summer. The first list: foe, vast, purchase, drowsy, absent, prank, feeble, annual, sturdy, reply. The last list: awareness, laziness, frightful, tactful, recently, quietly, arrangement, contentment, performer, trainer.

This is a reproducible book, meant to be used by a teacher. I photocopy the pages and keep my master book clean so that it can be reused later. You could also use a plastic sleeve with one side cut open to protect the page your student is currently working on. Use dry erase markers and wipe away after each lesson :)

The lessons are short, usually four lessons per word list. There is a variety of exercises including crossword puzzles, matching, synonyms, antonyms, fill in the blank, and picture clues. An answer key and master word list are provided at the back.

I also love the way the definitions are presented. The first exercise shows the definition in a short sentence. The vocabulary word is bolded. This enables the student to learn the definition without memorizing lengthy definitions.

Even though the lessons seem easy, the student really learns the vocabulary! Madeline has already recognized some of the words in our book club selections like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Pippi Longstocking. I love this book and the results!

Yes! We plan to continue with 240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need to Know: Grade 4. I plan on alternating between Scholastic and Sylvan for vocabulary. Once we finish Grade 3, we'll tackle the vocabulary portion of Sylvan's Super Reading Success 3rd Grade

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dallas Children's Theater: Charlotte's Web

After the show photo op with Charlotte

Madeline loves to go the theater! This Saturday, we spent some time just us two at Dallas Children's Theater's {DCT} production of Charlotte's Web. It's slightly more expensive than a movie ticket, but such a bargain for the quality of the show and cast :)

This heartwarming tale about friendship and loyalty is truly a classic. Madeline and I both cried during Wilbur and Charlotte's last conversation. When Charlotte's natural life cycle ends, the theater went absolutely silent. Never has such a kid-packed venue been so quiet! As Charlotte's babies were born, the place erupted into excited squeals.  

The actors were phenomenal! Madeline's favorite characters were Fern and Charlotte. I thought the whole cast was wonderful - but my favorite was Templeton, the rat. His over the top dramatics were HILARIOUS.

Run time was approximately an hour and a half. This was the first kids performance we've been to with an intermission. Still, the entire show kept the children's attention.

An amazing perk of attending DCT's productions is taking photos with the cast after the performance. The actors also signed programs with the name of their character. What a special opportunity to see the actors up close and in costume! Madeline made sure to tell each actor that she enjoyed their performance.


Gander and Goose

Little Lambs

The program noted that several of the child actors were homeschooled! Madeline didn't seem too interested in taking drama classes or trying out. For now, she's content enjoying the productions from the audience :)

In the meantime, DCT is wrapping up their season. And we can't wait for the 2014 - 2015 schedule!

Monday, May 12, 2014

End of Year Curriculum Review: Phonics

Over the next few weeks, I'll be reviewing last year's curriculum and planning for next year. Sharing what works for us, why I like it, and what I'll be using in the fall. Hopefully, it will lead to a dialog where we all learn and share together :)

Phonics:  Modern Curriculum Press 

It took many tries to find a phonics curriculum that interested Madeline. Finally, we found Modern Curriculum Press {MCP}. It was suggested by a master teacher who taught reading for 40 years! 

This year Madeline finished Level B, and has about 25% more to complete Level C. We've used the whole series, starting with Level K and then continuing on to our current workbook.

Just a note, the workbooks were updated in the last decade or so. They have been published for the last 50 years though!

Some of the workbooks you can purchase new online are the older version with the plaid only cover, no animals pictured. The older versions are still excellent! We started with the older versions of K and A.

I purchase my MCP books through Amazon. None of my local teacher supply stores seem to carry them.

A strong phonics foundation is essential for good reading. MCP teaches the basics with enough repetition so that the students really learn phonics. There are a variety of exercises:  filling in the blank, crossword puzzles, short reading books, multiple choice, and writing exercises. Teachers guides are available, but not really needed.

The inside back cover has helpful terms and rules. So if your child is working on page comparing vowel pairs and vowel diphthongs, they can find the rules and definitions and complete their page independently.

The cost is very reasonable! Each workbook cost between $10-$12. We can typically cover one and a half to two workbooks a year.

There is no answer key unless you buy the teachers edition. That being said, I've not needed one yet :)

Also, why did they start with K and then go to A? Why not start with K for kinder and then move to 1, 2, 3, etc.? I think their letter designations are confusing if you are used to grade level classifications or are unfamiliar with the product. The content is so good, however, that it's not a deal breaker for me.

Absolutely, unequivocally YES! We'll continue with the series until it ends :)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Growing Garden: Final Radish Harvest?

The radishes were a fantastic success! If you are looking for an easy, fast crop then give radishes a try.

Big radish! It was left longer than its 35 day harvest date.

Interesting heirloom/fancy shape

Whatever big sister does, little sister copies. Sophie was dying to help pull radishes. No way! There's other plants in that barrel that are still growing. I didn't want her overzealous hands to pull them out. Instead, we gave her a big bowl of water and she washed the dirt off the radishes.

Eh. It's still dirty. But hey, she's only 3.

Every time I think we've harvested the last of the radishes, another plant appears. Are the gnomes planting extras at night? Anyway, I think this is the LAST radish plant. It's gone to seed, if you look close you can see the flowers. Madeline wants to leave it a little longer so it will grow bigger.

Can you see the flower?
It's a bit fuzzy, but it's as close as I could get.

The tomato seeds have now taken over the radish barrel! They are now at the two-thirds up the tomato cage. No tomatoes yet though.

Are you growing radishes? If not, what's growing in your garden? I'd love to hear about it :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Field Trip: Lavon Farms {Lucky Layla Dairy} Tour

Living in the city, it's easy to forget where our food comes from. But yesterday we had the amazing opportunity to visit a working diary farm! Tour cost was minimal, only $3 per person.

Lavon Farms produces raw milk and yogurt products from Jersey cow milk for Lucky Layla. A third generation family business, their operations have been ongoing since the 1930s. Their facility and beautiful Jersey cows were very impressive :)

In comparison to cattle raised for beef, dairy cows look much different. Dairy cows are much more slender with large udders.

The cows looked well cared for, extremely clean, and happy :)

A tour guide spoke to our homeschool group overlooking the milking area. We were able to view the cows being milked and ask questions about the process. The entire group is milked in about 20 minutes! Setup and cleanup actually take more time than the milking.

Did you know that one dairy cow can produce enough milk to feed their baby and up to three more? If you nursed a child, you know how important it is to nurse on a schedule! Likewise, dairy cows area milked twice a day - everyday - to ensure they stay healthy and don't develop mastitis or other conditions from all that milk.

Fresh milk is naturally warm. So the milk immediately heads to a cooling system. Cooling the milk prevents the growth of bad bacteria. The farm does not pasteurize their milk, so keeping the mild cold is an important part of their process. I personally don't drink cow milk at all {raw or pasteurized} because it makes me very sick! But the girls do love their cow milk :)

Because of regulations in the state of Texas, raw milk can only be sold at the farm where it is produced. They keep a small storefront where their fresh, raw milk is sold.

Once the cows are milked, they exit the milking area and walk out into the pasture. There is plenty of room to roam, about 200 acres.

When the kids came to fence, the cows seemed equally curious
about the children.

After being milked, the cows headed in the direction of the pasture. But the kids captured their attention, and the cows seemed to stop and watch the children for a bit. Eventually, they began to roaming the pasture and forgot all about us :) 

At the end of our visit, I bought the kids some Lucky Layla drinkable yogurt. Just $3 for 2 drinks, a bargain and farm fresh! Flavor choices were blackberry, blueberry, and pina colada. Everyone headed to the picnic tables and enjoyed their treat. The products are full fat, so rich! 

Madeline finished ALL her blackberry drinkable yogurt

Sophie loved the little container. I had to promise not to
put it in the recycle bin so she can use it later :)

Before taking the tour, I was unfamiliar with Lucky Layla products. But having toured the Lavon Farms facility, I definitely want to shop local and support my neighbors!

Do you live near any farms? Have you toured them?

Homeschool Tip: Removing Book Spines & Adding Spiral Binding

Can I say how fabulous it is to remove book spines? If your curriculum workbooks are thick, it can be difficult for your child to keep the pages flat while working. Madeline gets so frustrated when the books want to close on her. And if it closes, she loses her place and has to find it again. There's a simple solution that's dirt cheap.

Cut off the spines and add spiral binding! Your kids will love it. I get my books done at Staples. It was just under $10 to remove the spines, add spiral binding, and insert plastic cover sheets to both of these Sylvan workbooks.

New spiral binding and clear plastic coversheet

Now the books lay perfectly flat. This workbook is open to page 182. If there was no spiral binding, it would be impossible to photograph open. Madeline would also be fighting to keep the workbook flat with one hand and write with the other. Now, no frustration during lessons!

Perfectly flat while open to page 182/183!

Even with a total of 310 pages, this book sits flat!

Another bonus, your student can just roll the extra side to the back. I learned about removing book spines from some of my sewing friends. They'd buy sewing books with quilt patters but couldn't keep the books open. So they removed the spines! Genius...

Try it and let me know what you think. I bet you'll want to do it to most of your workbooks  :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Baby Ducklings & Frolicking Turtles

The weather has been so beautiful lately. While walking the trails at our favorite park, we spotted eight little ducklings and their mama. What a wonderful surprise!

After swimming for a bit, they headed into a low and muddy area to walk around. So ADORABLE! How could we not stop and watch these little precious creatures?

Horace the Honker on baby safety patrol

A big brown goose we call Horace was intently trailing the little ones. We think he's a boy because he is quite aggressive and dominant

Horace is very protective of all the ducks and geese at the park! He always seems to be on safety patrol, keeping all the other fowl safe and well watched over.

We counted a total of eight ducklings!

Sophie and Madeline were so enamored with the ducklings, they decided to sit on the rocks at the edge of the pond for a while. 

From the walking path, we could see the turtles everywhere. We counted well over twenty! Lots seemed to be hiding in the moss and grasses close to shore.

These turtles kept on the move, diving and resurfacing.

One is sunning on a rock. Can you find the other two?
They are well camouflaged!

After walking around the pond and spotting turtles, we headed back to the trails. What is it about bridges and ramps? Kids just love them. Sophie and Madeline went over this little set of bridges about five times before continuing the walk.

What a fantastic morning! It's days like this that I am so thankful we homeschool. And we still had plenty of time for lessons in the afternoon :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Outdoor Classroom: Berry Blossoms

A few years back I planted a blackberry bush. At least, I think it's a blackberry bush. All the canes except one little survivor went to plant heaven. My 65 lb. hunk of furry love {Tank}, used to stomp through it while barking at pedestrians passing by our fence.

Since it has never bloomed or fruited, your guess is as good as mine. But this week, two new canes popped up and the existing cane is blooming! And a few berries are emerging from the blossoms.

Blackberries? Raspberries? We'll see...

Madeline even called the bush our 'blackberry bramble'. She remembered the term from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM

This year we've been sprinkling the base of the canes with soil acidifier. Maybe that's the difference? 

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Sasquatch Escape {The Imaginary Veterinary, Book 1} by Suzanne Selfors

Everyone loves reading classics for homeschool book club. But why not read something a bit different? Like...Sasquatch :)

And that's precisely our next book ~ The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors! The reviews seem to be overwhelmingly positive, so we'll give it a read.

The entire series is based on mythological creatures. Usually kids love animals, so it will be interesting to see just what they think of Bigfoot. I can't wait to see how Sasquatch is portrayed.

Has your child read it yet? If so, what did they think?

If not, read it with us!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Field Trip: Scarborough Renaissance Festival ~ Student Day Review & Tips

Who loves Student Day at Scarborough Renaissance Festival? Discounted admission, super-sized fun! Sophie {age 3} never got fussy or bored, which is pretty amazing since we were there from 10am to 3pm. That's a long field trip for her!

Still all smiles before the turtle race at 1:30 pm

Would we go again? Absolutely. Was it perfect? Not exactly. Here's the info you need to know for your visit:

Tip:  Don't be afraid to ask the vendors questions!

This was our primary reason for attending. There were tons of booths. Some of the vendors seemed a bit shy but really lit up when asked about their crafts.  

The place is laid out like a mini city! 

Storefronts, tents, booths ~ every nook and cranny had something interesting. But no matter how we tried, it was impossible to see all the artisan demonstrations.

Quite a few were selling their wares, but not demonstrating their process. That was a bit disappointing for an education day.

The artisans we did see were awesome though! We enjoyed watching the jeweler making medallion necklaces and the chain mail fabricator. They were very friendly with the kids and really took the time to educate them on what they were doing, why, and what the end result should be.

Tip:  Be sure to arrive at the main stages at least 30 minutes early.

This is really important for the larger demonstrations like knife throwing and jousting! Or else your kids will be crowded out and won't be able to see.

Even though the jousting was exciting, it was hard to hear them. I'm assuming they weren't wearing microphones. But the champions really got into character! There was even some lighthearted trash-talking by the squires prior to the champions entering on horseback.

Tip:  Bonus savings, you can bring in your own food 
only on Student Day.

Do it! I purposely did not pack our lunches to save having to lug them around. What a mistake! I waited in line for baked potatoes for over 30 minutes and just gave up. Instead, the kids feasted on fresh pretzels from a roaming vendor.

A woman sitting at our picnic table waited in line for a turkey leg for almost 2 hours! She gave up too.

What's really sad is that we missed the knife throwing demonstration because of the long lines. The pizza line had at least 50 people, so there was no way I even attempted that one. The food booths need a major prep and function overhaul! 

The small cooler I packed with drinks was completely gone by 3pm. All in all, we downed 8 half bottles of water and 4 juice boxes.

Tip:  Set a cash budget and stick to it.

It's easy to see all the unique offerings and want to buy everything. But it can really add up. Take cash to help stay on budget!

For their one special souvenir, the girls chose these little dragon pets. We actually saw them not far from the entrance, but Madeline wanted to see what other products were for sale before spending her -- ahem, my -- money! To me, they look a lot like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.

Loving her dragon pet!

You can't see it well in the picture, but each dragon had little leather saddles with metal rivets. Such a creative way to embellish those little dragons! The bodies are flexible and can be curled around your wrist, leg, or just about anything. Madeline even slept with her dragon curled around the frame of her bunk bed :)

It glows! And isn't the little leather saddle cool?

Study the Renaissance with these FREE resources from the Festival.

Art Appreciation Teachers
Drama/Theater Teachers
English/Language Arts Teachers
History/Social Studies Teachers
Math Teachers
Science Teachers
Download the Original Curriculum Guide Here