Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No Nonesense Algebra for Accelerated Math Students {Homeschool Crew Review}

When looking at Brennan's math books for this coming school year, it looks like I either have more high school students in my house than everybody thought or that I've completely lost my mind. He will be using No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials in conjunction with the Calculus books for his regular math curriculum.

No-Nonsense Algebra

I know it doesn't look like it would make any sense at all. Recently, I figured out that standardized college entrance exams can be a challenge for accelerated math students. Addison finished Calculus I as a high school sophomore and moved on to Calculus B/C during her junior year. Brennan will be taking Calculus I during his junior year. I specifically looked at their junior years because that's the year that taking the PSAT counts for the National Merit Scholarship Competition (and a National Merit Scholarship can pay for a lot of college expenses). The issue is that the PSAT/SAT/ACT exams are based on a traditional math sequence where many students do not take math classes past Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus. The vast majority of the math covered on the college entrance exams is based on pre-algebra calculation skills, some basic algebra manipulation, and a bit of geometry knowledge. One website claims that only 4 out of 50 math questions on the SAT requires basic trigonometry. My advanced math students were so far removed from elementary algebra concepts that they struggled more than if they had taken these exams a few years earlier.

That's where No-Nonsense Algebra steps in. This fall, Brennan will be using No-Nonsense Algebra to refresh his memory on math terminology, basic computation skills, and algebra so that those concepts won't look so foreign to him when he encounters them on the PSAT in October.

The first chapter of No-Nonsense Algebra covers a lot of pre-algebra topics, including basic computation skills that many advanced math students may have forgotten. (Both of the engineers in our house rely heavily on their calculators and would grumble if they were forced to do calculations with only a paper/pencil the way it is tested on certain sections of college entrance exams.)


What I love about Math Essentials is that the concepts are broken down into simple, easily-understood explanations. For nearly all of the topics, the explanation takes about half a page, an example problem takes another half a page, and then there is a single page of practice problems (and never more than 20 problems to work).


Because these concepts are all review for Brennan, he generally only needs the short explanation in the book. The No-Nonsense Algebra book includes an access code that unlocks short instructional videos for each topic as well. Each of these videos is approximately 8-10 minute long. Short enough to keep a busy student's attention span, but long enough to fully explain the concept.

I remember quite a bit of algebra concepts when it comes to solving basic calculation problems, so I turned to the last section of the book -- word problems. It contained several topics that I remember being particularly challenging.


I started with "Time, Rate, and Distance Problems" because I remember the challenges of train and car problems. I like the way Math Essentials broke these sorts of word problems down into four distinct types.


After reading the explanation and examples, I tried one on my own.


I then moved on to the "Mixture Problems." This time I skipped over the book introductions and examples and just watched the video. He gave a very clear explanation of how to solve the problem, and I felt confident enough to tackle the four exercise problems for this section.

Now that I've mastered (once again) the quadratic equations, train problems, and mixture problems, I'm ready to face the world, including the advanced physics class I'm going to be teaching this fall. More importantly, I'm confident that the lessons in No-Nonsense Algebra will help Brennan be prepared to ace the "easy" algebra questions on the PSAT.

After working with the No-Nonsense Algebra for a while, I looked to see what other topics Math Essentials covers. I was happy to see that they offer books on elementary math concepts, specific topics such as fractions or decimals/percents, geometry, problem solving, and mastering essential math skills (pre-algebra concepts). I was particularly interested in their Problem Solving book and just ordered it for Lauren. It starts with simple one-step word problems and moves into increasingly more complex problems, including those that will require two or even three steps to reach the answer.

No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Some days are like that {Wordless Wednesday}

I probably don't get a SuperMom award for today:


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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In the Reign of Terror {Homeschool Crew Review}

I sometimes think that I learn more during a single day as a homeschooling mom than I did in some of the classes I took in high school. Recently I've been listening to In the Reign of Terror from Heirloom Audio Productions and learning far more about the French Revolution than I had ever known.

In the Reign of Terror

Like other productions from Heirloom Audio Productions, In the Reign of Terror is an audio dramatization, not simply an audiobook. The original story by G.A. Henty is brought to life with voice actors playing each role, sound effects, and dramatic music.

In the Reign of Terror begins with a young boy asserting the similarity between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. An older gentleman corrects him and offers to tell a story about the French Revolution to illustrate the differences between the two. At this point, I probably should have looked at the study guide materials (available to download) and learned a bit more about the French Revolution. I was in the car, though, and eager to hear the older gentleman's story. In our story, a young British boy named Harry is sent to France to live with an aristocratic family who wanted a tutor or companion for their son. He then follows the family over the course of several years while the violence associated with the Reign of Terror spreads through France.

My first thoughts about this audio drama was that it was interesting to hear a different perspective on the events of the French Revolution. I'm not sure that I've ever truly studied this time period, and if I had, I was very fuzzy on the details. Brennan studied A Tale of Two Cities last year, and I remember it as a rich story primarily about peasants during this time period.  I also mistakenly thought that Les Miserables took place during the French Revolution; again, it is a story primarily about the struggles of the peasant class. In contrast, the action in In the Reign of Terror centers around an aristocratic family. I grew to love the family and saw them struggle to remain safe during the Reign of Terror.

Since Addison has recently returned home after studying European History while living in Europe this summer, she was able to help me understand much of the history that I had forgotten (or never learned). The French Revolution was actually a rather brief event, but was followed by years of unrest, including the Reign of Terror, the rule of Napoleon, and finally the establishment of the current style of government. (She also explained that Les Miserables took places years after the French Revolution and was based on a rather unimportant historical event that likely would have been forgotten if Victor Hugo hadn't written a novel about it and if that novel hadn't later been turned into an acclaimed musical.)

Addison also echoed the thoughts of G.A. Henty's work in that there are vast differences between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. The Americans sought freedom from oppression, and it can be argued that the French peasants sought much more than the liberty, equality, and fraternity that they proclaimed. I found a particular line in the audio drama summed it up quite well: "The marquis himself has said that the English way fosters independence and self-respect across all classes, while ours breeds resentment. His complaint is not about change, but about too much of it too quickly. It is not égalité, equality, the canaille -- that is, the common people, desire, but a reversal of roles."

Addison and I also discussed the differences in how the Americans viewed God at that time versus the way the French Revolutionaries did. I could base my part of the discussion on the information I learned while listening to In the Reign of Terror, and she based hers on what she studied this summer. Heirloom Audio Productions prides itself on producing quality, wholesome entertainment that shares the stories of "Christian Heroes for Kids of All Ages." This drama is no exception to the rule. Several of the main characters share verses that they rely on for strength in the face of challenges or danger, and the narrator clearly points out the way many Americans in the Revolutionary Days were looking towards God while French Revolutionaries such as Maximillien Robespierre relied heavily on the Enlightenment philosophies which discounted the role of God in everyday life and fought against the opulence of many European churches prior to that time.

In addition to receiving the audio CD, Heirloom Audio also granted me access to their new Live the Adventure Club online community and resources. From there, I was able to download the study guide materials that correspond to the In the Reign of Terror drama. After listening to the audio drama myself, I decided that Lauren would struggle to keep the names and action straight, especially if I simply played it in the car while driving to an appointment. When I am ready to use this (or other Heirloom Audio Productions) with Lauren, I will rely heavily on the study guide materials. My favorite part is the lengthy lists of questions for each chapter of the book. Approximately half of the questions are "listening well" questions -- factual questions designed to make sure the listener understands and remembers the characters and action in the chapter. The other half are "Thinking Further" questions that require the student to remember other historical events, to apply a situation in the story to their own life, to make predictions about the story they are hearing, and more. These questions would be great discussion starters.



While I was looking on the Live the Adventure Club website, I found online multiple choice quizzes covering each chapter of the story. There is also a selection of downloadable scripts, the story in its original novel form (as an ebook), movie posters, and other fun bonuses that correspond with this story.


I truly enjoyed listening to the In the Reign of Terror audio dramatization. Once again, Heirloom Audio Productions has bought an amazing story from G.A. Henty to life so children (and adults) can enjoy it today. Perhaps even more enjoyable than the time I spent listening to the story was the time I spent discussing European history with Addison. I was able to hold my own in the conversation as she discussed the timeline of the French Revolution, the way it differed from the American Revolution, and the way both of those events affected other countries throughout Europe. I'm certain I learned more about European History through my time spent listening to and discussing In the Reign of Terror than I would have if I had listened to a professor lecture about the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

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©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Friday, July 28, 2017

Eight Heart Birthdays!



Eight years ago today, Lauren received an amazing gift of life -- her new, strong heart.

As always I'm overcome with emotions and can only say "thank you" to the family that made these eight years of heart birthday celebrations possible.


A few of the Lauren stories I've shared over the years:

Happy New Year! (2009)
One year ago (2010)
Happy Heart Birthday! (2011)
Donate Life (2012)
New Strong Heart Day (July 28, 2014)
Thirty-three weeks, three days (2014)

Also, I've finally fixed the broken video link from the time years ago when we shared Lauren's birth (and early years) story with our church in Fairfax, VA -- A Defining Moment. Please note that this video comes with a kleenex warning. :)

©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Doctor Aviation {Homeschool Crew Review}

Doctor Aviation

I know that many homeschoolers continue to work all summer long. Lauren is quite adamant that she should not have to do schoolwork when her church friends are on summer vacation. Therefore, instead of continuing on with our regular school assignments, I've found some alternate education activities to help fill the long summer days. One of the biggest inspirations for these activities is Lauren's American Heritage Girls Handbook and the lists of badges she could earn this summer. While I know that she's learning when she completes badge requirements, it doesn't count as school in her mind.

One of the badges she was interested in is the Aviation badge. As an Air Force family, it would almost be a disgrace if she didn't earn it. The problem is that she does better when someone else is teaching. Although Doctor Aviation is geared towards teens and adults, his aviation education video training lectures have allowed Lauren to learn many of the aviation basics she needs to know in order to earn her badge.


Doctor Aviation is a full course designed for high school students and even adults. The course consists of fifteen video segments, each lasting about 45 minutes to an hour, and corresponding materials that take each further with reading assignments, additional activity suggestions, etc. 

The videos feature Doctor Aviation, a former USAF Command Pilot with over 2000 flying hours, sharing information in an informal, yet engaging way. The majority of the video is focused on him standing in front of an aircraft and talking directly to his audience. I could tell that he's passionate about teaching aviation basics. (I could also tell that he has been well trained in giving military presentations. He tells the audience what he's going to tell them, tells them the information, and then tells them what he told them. It's an often used and quite effective method of conveying information.)



When appropriate in his lectures, the screen changes to illustrate his points.



Lauren was particularly excited when she heard him talking about the landing gear on a C-5 (the plane my dad flew for most of his career).


Each of the videos are divided into three sections. Despite its name the Technical Trivia section isn't really trivia. In my opinion, it's the real meat of the instruction in terms of basic aviation knowledge. This section included lessons about the main plane components, the forces acting on a plane in flight, air traffic control basics, airfield operations, pilot instruments, and so much more. The other parts of each video include information about Notable Innovators and either a Legendary Event or Legendary Aircraft.

Since Lauren is several years younger than the recommended age, I watched the videos first and then selected portions that would help her meet the requirements for her Aviation badge. I thought all the video information was fascinating. I haven't yet gotten into the deeply technical aspects of aviation (the equation for calculating the amount of lift generated by a wing), but I found his explanations so far in the course to be very clear. Perhaps what I enjoy most is the Notable Innovators and Legendary Event/Aircraft segments of the videos. The first video discussed Orville and Wilbur Wright, and I appreciated the way Doctor Aviation emphasized the parts of their childhood and young adult years that gave them the character qualities they needed to persevere in reaching their dream of a successful flight. I also enjoyed the way Doctor Aviation brought the story of Chuck Yeager's initial years as a military pilot to life by sharing specific details of his escape to Spain when shot down during World War II. 

Each video has downloadable notes guides, and I've been using them to make sure Lauren grasps the information she needs to learn for her badge. Here are some of her notes from the video talking about six major components of an aircraft.


As you can see, the lecture itself is well-organized and all the important details are left for the student to fill in as Doctor Aviation talks about them. Lauren often had to pause the video to allow time for writing, but she is just now learning to take notes in a lecture-style situation.

In addition to the notes sheets, each lesson has several pages of additional resources that can be downloaded and used. These pages include book suggestions, websites to further illustrate a particular concept, and additional assignments. If a high school student wanted to complete a basic aviation class for credit, these additional resources would provide enough materials to do so.


Lauren hasn't been interested in learning anything more than what is required for her badge, but I still have hopes that these videos will spark an interest that leads her to delve deeper into the topic. Perhaps I'll talk her into watching some of Doctor Aviation's videos about Amelia Earhart -- I read a ton of Amelia Earhart biographies when I was Lauren's age.

I am thrilled to be able to use Doctor Aviation to teach Lauren the aviation basics she needs to earn her American Heritage Girls Aviation badge, and I'm also thrilled that I get to enjoy all the extra knowledge he shares in the Notable Innovators and Legendary Events segments. Doctor Aviation has produced an amazing online resource that brings the exciting world of aircraft and aviation to high schoolers, adults, and even a sixth grader wanting to earn a merit badge.

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}
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©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Honors Summer Academy (Oklahoma Christian University)


Ask Brennan how many dollar bills had cocaine residue on them.


Or how far his rocket flew.

©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trust Fund Movie {Homeschool Crew Review}

Mapelle Films

I'm not normally a big fan of movies. I will willingly go to the movie theater with the rest of my family if there's something we're all interested in, but I rarely watch a video just for myself. When I saw the description and trailer for Trust Fund by Mapelle Films, I was intrigued enough to ask to review it.


Trust Fund Movie

Trust Fund is a modern day take on the story of the prodigal son told in the gospel of Luke (chapter 15). Instead of two brothers, this film follows the story of two sisters. Like the original parable, the younger sister takes a large sum of money (her inheritance) and runs off to another country. When she finds herself in over her head and out of money, she returns home to her father. Also like the original parable, the older sister struggles when her prodigal sister returns home.

I'm so familiar with the original prodigal story that I was caught off guard when the movie kept going after the anticipated "welcome home" party. The Biblical accounts ends shortly after the father orders that the fatted call be killed. At the corresponding point in Trust Fund, I was only two-thirds of the way through the movie. In hindsight, I should've realized that a good movie would wrap up the loose ends from the first part of the film and delve into way relationships were reconciled (or not), but I was left missing the faster pace and familiar story line of the movie's beginning. My mistake was perhaps in assuming that Trust Fund has the same climax as the original parable. Eventually, the high-paced tempo of the first half of the movie returned and I was hooked again. In the end, I was not disappointed in the movie, even if I thought it drug a bit in the middle.


To further the Trust Fund movie experience, Mapelle Films created a free study guide to use in a small group discussion setting. I like the way that it builds on the film as a whole and also includes short clips to remind the group of specific scenes or situations. The study guide delves into such deep topics as howwe can become dissatisfied with God's plans for our lives, why we sometimes choose condemnation over compassion, the difficulty of offering forgiveness and restoration, and so much more. Avid readers might also be interested the companion book Love Was Near -- a book featured in the book and one that delves more deeply into the main character's feelings and thoughts when she left home and set off on her own.

Sandra L. Martin, writer and director of Trust Fund, already has another movie in the works. How to Pick Your Second Husband First, a romantic comedy, is supposed to be released in 2018. I'll be watching the Mapelle Films website to make sure I don't miss any updates.

Trust Fund Movie {Mapelle Films Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced. http://throughthecalmandthroughthestorm.blogspot.com

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