Friday, December 11, 2015

VTech Innotab Max {review}

Rachel was delighted to learn the VTech had sent us an Innotab Max to review.  She has the original Innotab and she enjoys it.  However, the Innotab Max is so much more advanced and has some great new features.  


Let's start with the look of it.  The Innotab Max comes in blue or pink.  It has a 7 inch high resolution screen which presents the best graphics I've seen from a children's tablet.  There is also a dual-core CPU so the tablet runs significantly faster than her previous Innotab.  It has a strong plastic case with a cover that flip over and act as a stand.  It is sturdy and has already survived several accidental drops.  It has a stylus and a slot to hold it.  

What can a child do with the Innotab Max?  There are games and ebooks available for a wide range of children's ages and abilities, from ages 3-9.  Rachel is in first grade and there is a wide selection of games and books for her to learn with on this tablet.  Her favorite things to do is work with the Movie Maker app or play the Frozen game but she also loves listening to her music playlists.  The Innotab Max comes with an educational bundle plus one Toca Boca app of your choice.  But there is also a complete library of additional games and ebooks that can be downloaded to the device or game cartridges can be purchased as well.  There is a camera and Rachel loves taking selfies!  She can even use the Kid Connect app to send her pictures directly to me on my smart phone.  She can also use Kid Connect to send voice or text messages to me. 

The parent side of things.  There are parental controls that let me manage her apps, web access, and tablet time.  I can log on and view her progress to see what she is playing and how she is doing.  I let her bring the Innotab Max if I know we might be stuck in a doctor's waiting room for a while.  It has a headphone jack so she can be entertained without disturbing others around her.

The Innotab Max's MSRP is $99.99 which is great for such a high quality children's tablet that will grow with my child.  For more information, check out the VTech website.

VTech provided me with an Innotab Max for the purpose of this review.  However, all comments and opinions stated here are entirely my own.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ginger Grammar Checker - Help for Homeschool Moms!

Grammar rules can get tricky.  There seems to be as many exceptions as there are rules.  It is especially difficult to follow correct grammar when we are so used to hearing it used improperly.

But as a homeschool teacher I need to be sure I'm sharp on my grammar skills so I can teach them correctly to my children.  I found a website that I use to look up quick answers to my grammar questions.  It is easy to use and its free!

It's called Ginger Grammar Checker and I love it!  I'm just amazed that technology like this exists.


Just type your sentences into the first line and Ginger will make any corrections in the second line.  It's just that easy!

Give it a try yourself.  It corrects problems with subject-verb agreement, singular/plural nouns, consecutive nouns, misused words, and contextual spelling mistakes.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Bronze Age: Field Trip to the Grapevine Foundry

The kids have continued their study of Ancient Greece.  One of the things that has been particularly interesting for Nicholas is the bronze weapons that were used.  Civilizations we studies earlier this year used stone for sculpture, writing surfaces, and weapons.  That was the Stone Age.  Ancient Greece culture is in the Bronze Age for bronze was the most sophisticated material they had at the time.

Bronze is a mixture of copper and tin.  We studied a little about how copper ore.  We watched several videos like this one on  Lost Wax Casting  but we had to watch several videos on bronze sword making as well.

Last year we were visiting Vetro Glass Studio in Grapevine and discovered the Grapevine Foundry.  So we decided to take a field trip there with our co-op group to learn first hand about casting bronze.


Linda is an incredible artist and she is very passionate about bronze.  She talked to the kids about the process and showed them some pieces that they are working on.


She showed us this clay bust of a woman.  Her husband commissioned the piece to be made.
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Once the clay model is made, they cover it in wax and then plaster.  The wax is melted away and then they can use the hollow space where the wax was as their mold for the liquid bronze.

We got to see where all of the exciting work happens.  Look at that green fire!


The green glow is caused by the copper that is melting in a receptacle inside the fire.  This fire is about 2000 degrees!


The kids had a fun opportunity to make a keepsake while they were there.  They had their handprints cast in bronze!


They started with a box filled with tightly packed sand.  The top was dusted with powder.  They each pressed a hand print in the sand. 


Linda made sure that there were fingers overlapping so when the bronze was poured it would become one piece of art instead of two separate hand prints.  I love that idea!  This became the mold that the bronze would be poured into.


For obvious reasons, we were not allowed in the work area but we could see everything from a safe distance away.  I love this picture.  They look like mad scientists at work.


We saw this gentleman scoop some of the bronze out of the fire and dump it in this metal bucket.  Ahh, he was removing some the of impurities off of the top of the molten bronze.  We learned that from one of the videos we watched.


Then he scooped some more bronze and started filling the molds.


I don't know why my camera took these darker picture (maybe the flash went off?)  but they look even cooler this way!  Look at the bronze just pour onto the floor!  It is so hot that it even caught the wooden mold on fire!


After just a few minutes, you could see the bronze turning from red to brown as it began to cool off.  Amazing!


Linda took them out of the mold and quenched them in water.  You may not be able to tell from this picture but she is holding them with a special tool because they are still super hot!


Look how neat they turned out!  Linda said she needed about 20 minutes to clean up the edges some so we left them with her and wandered down Main Street for a while.


The kids found these fun bronze statues of kids and a dog at play!  What a perfect way to wrap up our field trip!


Bronze is such an incredible material and the works of art (or weapons as Nicholas would say) are just amazing.


We headed back to the Foundry and picked up the hand prints.  I just love how they turned out and I love that there is a print for each of them and they are joined in bronze.


The Grapevine Foundry is located at 701 S. Main Street in Grapevine, TX. For more information and a list of classes available, check out the Grapevine Foundry website.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Flurry of Holiday Fun at the Perot Museum {+ Giveaway!}



I'm so excited that the Perot Museum of Nature and Science has generously provided me with a family four-pack of tickets to the museum to giveaway here on Savor the Days!  These tickets are good through January 8, 2016 so you can have fun with your family over the holidays.  Even if you are already a member of the Perot, consider entering to win anyway and gifting another family with the tickets.

To enter to win the four-pack of tickets, just fill out one or more of the entry options at the bottom of this post.  The winner will be chosen by random drawing on December 9, 2016 at midnight CST.  


The Perot Museum of Nature and Science hosted a fun Family Blogger event so we could help them get the word out about the the exciting new exhibits and fun holiday plans at the museum.


My kids especially enjoyed the adorable Mammoth cookies in honor of Ellie May, the nearly intact and pristine Columbian Mammoth discovered near here in Ellis County last summer and just opened on display at the museum.  I can't wait to show you the pictures!


We are amateur fossil hunters so I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to see Ellie May.  And here she is!  This Columbian Mammoth skeleton is displayed on her side in the same position in which she was discovered as she laid in the sand and gravel pit on the McEwen family property.   



There are some great video clips about her recovery on the Perot Museum website.

We got an amazing opportunity to meet and ask questions of Dr. Ron Tykoski, a paleontologists who spent countless hours working on the the excavation and recovery of this amazing specimen.



At the signage about the discovery of Ellie May, there is an interactive camera that you can control to move around and zoom in on Ellie May's bones!  What an amazing feature to have on this exhibit.  


Next we visited the special exhibit, Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence.  It is a dark exhibit that taught us all about creatures that glow.  My kids love glow sticks and any kind of toy that lights up so this was their favorite exhibit at the Perot.....of all time!

We learned about fireflies and even got to play with an interactive exhibit that showed how they use different patterns of flashing light to communicate with each other.



We learned that Bioluminescense is light generated by a living organism through a chemical reaction and got to see pictures of some amazing creatures that have this cool feature.


We learned about Glow Worms which glow a greenish-yellow and Railroad Worms which have an additional red glow on their heads.




I was excited to see the exhibit taught the kids about dinoflagellates which are bioluminescent marine plankton.  Stuart and I have seen these little "balls of fire" in person many years ago on a trip to the beach.  At night, they glow and seem to ride the waves as they crashed ashore.  It was an unforgettable sight.


Rachel spent a lot of time learning at the interactive exhibit that taught her about fluorescence on a coral reef.


In contrast to bioluminescense, fluorescence occurs when molecules become excited and glow under ultraviolet light.  There is no chemical reaction occurring to make the object glow.


Nicholas was the most engaged I have ever seen him at a museum.  He usually reads some of the informational plaques and does some of the activities then he's ready to move on.  But today he read everything he saw.  He was excited and engaged and kept asking me to come see what he had learned.  


The Ponyfish flashes to communicate with females but the source of its light is intriguing.  There is a donut-shaped structure around its neck that contains a colony of bioluminescent bacteria.  They share a symbiotic relationship which means they both benefit by working together.  


One of my kids' favorite creatures to learn about in the exhibit was the Loose Jaw fish.  He's just really creepy looking to me!  My son also liked the Vampire Squid.


We watched two 2D films while we were at the museum.  Nicholas wouldn't smile because he said that would ruin his "cool" look. (*smirk*)


Rachel chose for us to see Wonders of the Arctic 3D while Nicholas picked Walking with Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet 3D.  I was hoping we could also watch Jerusalem 3D but we just ran out of time.  

So much to see, so little time!

Speaking of so much to see, I can't describe all of the incredible exhibits at the Perot Museum in one post but here are some highlights of other exhibits you will find there:


The Perot Museum has done a great job of putting together a collection of Educational Resources and Scavenger Hunts for teachers and students that correspond with the exhibits you'll find at the museum. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway


HOURS. General hours of operation for the Perot Museum and Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. On the first Thursday of the month, the Museum will stay open until 9 p.m. for its First Thursday Late Night public events. 

Holiday and other special hours. The Perot Museum will close Dec. 25 (Christmas). The Museum will offer extended hours until 7 p.m. Dec. 26-Jan. 2, except for Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) when the Museum will close at 3 p.m. and Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve), when the Museum will close at 4 p.m.

Member mornings. From 8:30-10 a.m. every Saturday and 10 a.m.-noon every Sunday, members can enjoy exclusive access to the Perot Museum and Creatures of Light. Additionally, members will enjoy exclusive access from 8:30-10 a.m. Dec. 28-Jan. 1.

TICKETS. Museum general admission ticket prices are $19 for adults (18-64), $12 for youth (2-17), $13 for seniors (65+), and free for children under 2. Museum general admission is always free for members. Admission to the theater is $6 for a short film (20 minutes) and $8 for a long film (40 minutes) for adults, seniors and youth. For members, admission to the theater is $5 (short film) and $6 (long film). All children under 2 are free.

Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence requires a surcharge along with purchase of Museum general admission for non-members for a total admission cost of $26 for adults (18-64), $18 for youth (2-17), $19 for seniors (65+), and free for children under 2. Member tickets are $5 for adults (18-64) and $4 for youth (2-17) and seniors (65+).

Skip the ticket sales line! During the holiday season, visitors, including members, are strongly encouraged to purchase/reserve tickets directly from their smart phones or computers in advance.

PARKING. General parking and handicap parking is available in the main Museum parking lot, a pay-to-exit lot located under Woodall Rodgers Freeway across from the Museum. Limited additional handicap and Hybrid/electric vehicle parking is available in the Special Permit lot, located directly west of the Museum. Pricing is $8 per car. Museum members pay $3 when purchased at the Box Office inside the museum. The Perot Museum is located at 2201 N. Field Street in Dallas, Texas. For more information, visit perotmuseum.org or call 214-428-5555.

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