Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Planning a Perfect Day (Back to Homeschool Blog Hop)

A few weeks ago I was reading a few of my favorite blogs and saw a title that caught my eye. It said, "A perfect planning day," but I first thought it said, "Planning a perfect day." I don't really remember what the blogger wrote about her planning day.

I did start thinking.

"Planning a perfect day."

A perfect day rarely happens in our house. In fact, sometimes I think that no two days are alike for our family.

Some days we had a doctor's appointment that takes all morning. On other days, we simply had Lauren's daily therapy appointment. Some days had more tube feedings than others. Other days were hungry days and I made more allergy-free snacks from scratch. Sometimes the pharmacy mixed up Lauren's medicines again and we needed to make a "quick" trip to the hospital thirty minutes away to get a blood draw at 8 am. Sometimes Brennan woke up early, and sometimes I woke him up when I realized it was already mid-morning. Sometimes I ran in the afternoon, and sometimes I tried to go outside before it got too hot.

For the past few years, I've been so busy with just making do, that I didn't have a specific goal in mind. No wonder we haven't had any perfect days.

I think of the saying, "If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time."

I've had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish, but I never put forth the effort to make a plan to get there. I was aiming for getting everything done somehow. I guess I made my somehow goal more often than not.

This year, I'd love to do more than get by somehow.

I wish I had a perfect day lined out so that I could share it with you. Unfortunately, it's still too early for me to figure out exactly what "perfect" is going to look like in our new location.

As we start settling in to our new home and adding more schoolwork to our days, I'm going to look at everything with an eye towards perfect.

What will a perfect homeschool day look like? I want to have a clear picture of that perfect day in my mind. I know that our days will rarely go as planned. If I'm not striving for perfection, though, I know that we won't achieve it.

The participants in the Homeschool Blog Hop are talking about all sorts of planning topics todays -- planning for the year, week, day, or even minute. Be sure to stop by some of the other blogs to get some new ideas.


What's on our bookshelves this fall? (Back to Homeschool Blog Hop)

Actually, I should be asking, "What books did I pack in boxes to put in the back of the van when we moved instead of letting the movers take it with them?" We may be living in temporary housing for a few months before we move into our new home, and I wanted to make sure I had all of the homeschool materials we'd want to use right away. Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to work on this school year and what we'll need before we settle into a house somewhere. I'm also thankful that all three very heavy boxes of books fit into the van and didn't have to be mailed to Arizona.

(Side note for anyone following our moving saga: We're still in Arkansas. The dealer told us today that the van will be ready late tomorrow afternoon. Who knows? I sort of feel like I'm in Groundhog Day and that I've heard "tomorrow" before.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Here are our curriculum choices for next year:

Addison (9th grade)

Bible: Sonlight Core 100 and Apologia's I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and workbook
Algebra II: Math U See Algebra 2
ChemistryApologia Chemistry with an online class at Virtual Homeschool Group
US History: Sonlight Core 100
English 1: Sonlight Core 100 and Institute in Excellence in Writing materials (High School Essay Intensive and The Elegant Essay)
German 1: Tell Me More Homeschool German
Computer Programming: Teencoder Java and Android
PE (self-directed) and Fine Arts (hopefully a new choir to join)

Brennan (6th grade)

Bible: to be decided; perhaps God's Great Covenant New Testament
Pre-Algebra: Math U See Pre-Algebra
Science: Christian Kids Explore Science series, either Physics or Biology or parts of both
US History: Sonlight Core D+E
Language Arts: readers and read-alouds from Sonlight, Wordly Wise, Phonetic Zoo (spelling), IEW composition materials (perhaps All Things Fun and Fascinating), Growing with Grammar
Other: review materials, Boy Scout merit badges, and other fun things I find

Lauren (1st grade)

Bible: continue through Egermeier's Bible Story Book, one story per day
Math: Math U See Alpha
Reading: IEW's Primary Arts of Language: Reading
Writing: IEW's Primary Arts of Language: Writing; our favorite part of this program is the daily journal entries that we work on together
Spelling: All About Spelling (finish level 1 and move on to level 2)
Grammar: Growing with Grammar
Science: lots of read-alouds, primarily drawing from the Sonlight Science materials that I used with her big brother and sister
Other: Sonlight read-alouds, other chapter books, home exercise programs for occupational and physical therapy, review products, computer activities (HearBuilder, Always Icecream, Reading Kingdom), ideas from SchoolhouseTeachers.com, and probably more

This post is part of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop, be sure to stop by a few other blogs and see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are saying about Homeschool Curriculum.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The "What Works for Us" Method (Back to Homeschool Blog Hop)

Last week, the Homeschool Review Crew blog gave a preview of our Back to Homeschool Blog Hop.

"Which homeschool method is right for your homeschool? On Monday, the Crew tackles this topic, bringing you their experiences, tips, and recommendations!"

Instead of asking which method is right for my homeschool, I ask myself which method works best for each child?

If you had asked me 8 years ago what homeschool method I was using, I would have responded with the name of the company that I purchased our curriculum from. That was the year we began homeschooling, and the decision to try homeschooling was heavily influenced by a homeschool catalog that arrived in the mail. I not only identified myself as a homeschooler, I identified myself as a Sonlighter.

If you had asked me a few years later, I would have said that we were very literature based. Later in the conversation, I would have mentioned Sonlight. I still used that curriculum for much of our schoolwork, but I started adding other materials or programs. I became a master of our prescheduled curriculum and tweaked it as I felt necessary.

Now, as we enter our ninth year of homeschooling, I don't have a clear idea of what homeschool method I use. Is it fair to say, "We do what works"?

You see, Addison thrived with our initial literature based approach. She soaked in stories, historical facts, geography, vocabulary, and well, basically anything I read to her. If all our children were exactly like her, I might still be labeling our homeschool as "literature-based."

Brennan, on the other hand, doesn't do quite as well with a purely literature based approach. He reminds me of myself sometimes. I noticed this morning in church that my mind tends to wander during the sermon if I'm not taking notes. I also have to pay close attention to character names and descriptions in the books I read. Often I'll struggle to describe a book (or movie) to my husband because my descriptions sounds something like, "The girl, I think her name was Lisa, went somewhere, out in the woods or the beach or somewhere, and met this guy who was trying to find something." I follow the storyline and enjoy the story, but I miss many of the details. A purely literary approach to learning history doesn't work when we got to the end of a history novel and Brennan described the main character as "the other guy."

Instead of pressing on with our initial literature-based curriculum choice, I've been searching for products that work better for Brennan. Instead of reading science facts to Brennan and hoping that he'd be able to draw conclusions about the science concepts, I found the Christian Kids Explore series that specifically introduces the science concepts first and then gives examples. Earlier this summer, I surprised myself when I saw how a reading textbook from Pearson Homeschool could help Brennan. I won't give up on reading some of the great literature that I've used with other programs, but it's silly to limit myself to a program that frowns on reading story excerpts from a textbook.

As Lauren entered Kindergarten, I realized that she's a completely different student than either her older brother or her older sister. Instead of just listening to stories, she likes to interact with them. The most frequently heard statement when I'm reading to Lauren is, "Let me finish the sentence (paragraph, page) and then you'll know why." Also, I've learned that she rarely enjoys educational videos or computer programs. She prefers to make her own choices when she's watching TV or playing on the computer, choices that usually don't include the educational products I chose for her to do that day.

I'm thankful for the freedom to homeschool and the freedom to choose the method that works for each child. I'm also thankful for the many, many homeschool products that I can choose from. It might take a while for me to figure out what method works best for each one of my children, but I know that working with their skills and preferences will be a whole lot more beneficial than just pressing on with the homeschool method that appeals the most to me.

Many of the other participants in this week's Back to Homeschool Blog Hop are describing their own Homeschool Methods. Be sure to either click the button below to go to the main page or click on a link further below to visit other blogs.


No-Nonsense Algebra (Schoolhouse Crew Review)


When I first started homeschooling, I occasionally had another parent ask me, "What are you going to do when Addison gets to high school and is studying Algebra?" Thankfully, I always liked math, and algebra doesn't scare me. I've realized lately that there are so many great curriculum options that algebra shouldn't scare any homeschool parent.

Even though Addison finished Algebra 1 about a year ago and Brennan is just now gearing up for Pre-Algebra, I've been taking a close look at Math Essentials' No-Nonsense Algebra program.

The Algebra book comes with an online access code that allows you to watch online instructional videos that correspond with each lesson. Each video lasted 8-10 minutes and included an instructor showing how to work a few sample problems. During the videos, the student is encouraged to work the problem along with the explanation. When Brennan watched the first few videos in the series, he did  his work on a marker board.

To get a better feel for the program, I watched the video explanations for a topic I often struggled with -- time, rate, and distance word problems. I found the ten minute explanation to be very thorough. Every step of the problems was clearly explained, and I had no problems keeping up with the instructor as I worked out the examples. I've now regained my confidence when it comes to working train and car problems. Additionally, there were three pages of examples that I could refer to while working the exercises.

Following the instructional video, the student completes a single practice sheet with 10-20 problems related to the topic. Each page also includes a few review problems from earlier topics. The publisher claims that the lesson will take 20 minutes per day, and I agree that a good math student could watch the video and complete the practice page in that amount of time. Our only complain about the practice pages is that the problems are intended to be worked on a separate sheet of paper. I struggle to get Brennan to show his work on practice pages that allow room for his work; it's even more difficult to get him to neatly show his work if he has to use separate paper.

Non-Nonsense Algebra has 10 chapters with a total of 95 lessons. Each chapter has a set of review that could be used as a chapter test. At the end of the course, there is a comprehensive set of 157 review problems. As I searched through the topics covered in this book, I found it to compare favorably with all of the other programs

The answers to all of the problems are included in the back of the book. Unfortunately, there are not full explanations for those problems. I didn't find that necessary at this level of math, but it may be helpful for some students (and their parents).

PhotobucketIn addition to the Algebra materials, I also reviewed the Geometry book in the Mastering Essential Math Skills series.  These lessons would be a great addition to any upper elementary math curriculum, especially for a middle school student. The book includes thirty geometry topics, including angles, polygons, area, perimeter, and circle calculations. Brennan (sixth grader) has already covered some of the geometry topics, but there are a lot that he hasn't seen before.

The Mastering Essential Math Skills books do not include instructional videos, but the short explanation was usually sufficient for my children to figure out the concept on their own. Again, these lessons are intended to be short and to the point, approximately 20 minutes per lesson.

The No-Nonsense Algebra program from Math Essentials costs $27.95 for the book and online videos. I think that's an incredibly good deal when compared to other higher level math program.

The Geometry review book costs $11.95. The Mastering Essential Math Skills series also offers similar review books covering fractions, decimals and percents, problem solving, charts and graphs, and whole number operations. If you are looking for a more complete program, they offer two levels of essential math skills and a pre-algebra curriculum that include companion DVDs.

When Brennan is ready for Algebra 1, I will seriously consider using this program. (If I didn't have hand-me-down materials from Addison, I would definitely use Math Essentials.) In the meantime, he's going to work through the geometry program and perhaps some of the others, too.

Disclaimer: I received No-Nonsense Algebra and Geometry as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Coming Soon

Starting tomorrow, I'll be joining more than 70 other homeschooling bloggers for a Back to Homeschool Blog Hop. Be sure to check back this week as we talk about what homeschooling looks like for our families.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Happy Heart Birthday!

It's hard to believe that it's been three years.

Today is a day of prayers -- prayers of comfort for a family that grieves and prayers of thanksgiving for such a wonderful gift.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Another day, another adventure

When you have extra time on your hands, you might as well go geocaching. Last week, we found a travel bug that was hoping to travel the world and then find it's way home to Tucson, AZ. Unfortunately, it hasn't become a world traveler (or even much of a US traveler) yet. We didn't want to take it home so soon so we were planning to leave it somewhere along our path through Texas. We might as well make it Texarkana, TX.

The kids found a way to entertain themselves at the mall while Tim was calling people about the car.

After another Chick-Fil-A lunch, we hung out with some friends at Books-A-Million for a few hours.

Unfortunately, we then got an update on our very sick van. It looks like it'll be more than just a quick fix. My friend Jennifer took all the kids to play at McDonalds while we tried to decide what to do. We grabbed a few essentials out of the van, talked to the mechanic working on it, reclaimed our kids, and then hit the road.

Unfortunately, we decided it was more prudent to head back East instead of further West.

As much as we love Arkansas and all our friends and family, we're a bit disappointed that we aren't further along the path to Arizona. Right now, we're staying with Tim's parents -- a little more than 2 hours from Little Rock (in the wrong direction).

The latest word on the van is that we'll be heading west sometime next week. I'm sure that God has a plan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our Faith Move

I started to write this post last night. I was feeling a bit like Abraham. "Go out from your land to the land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1)

In Hebrews, Abraham is counted among the faithful. "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8)

Last week, nearly all of our household goods were loaded on a moving van.

We have a general idea of where we are going, and thankfully, Tim has a job waiting for us on the other end. Unlike most of our other moves, though, we don't have a house ready for us on the other end. We know that we won't be living on base because that waiting list is far too long. We had a house that we were going to rent, but now it won't be available until mid-October.

I took to calling this move our "faith move." We are setting out towards our new home with no specific destination in mind.

This morning, we hit the road bright and early. Two hours later, we crossed the state line and stopped for gas.

A few minutes later, we stopped again. This time for car troubles.

I'm beginning to think that this move more closely resembles the story of Moses, specifically the part about Moses wandering in the desert for 40 years.

I know that God is in control of this move. Many friends have reminded me that God is still in control and that "He knows the big picture from Arkansas to Arizona."


Tonight, I'm thankful that the problems didn't happen a few hours (or days) later when we would've been in the middle of nowhere. 

I'm thankful that we're all still laughing. Brennan claims this is "the best move yet."

I'm especially thankful for friends that joined us for lunch and then showed us a cool place to take pictures.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

HearBuilder Auditory Memory (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I sometimes worry when I receive computer software to review with my children. Lauren has very definite likes and dislikes when she spends time on the computer. I'd love to evaluate materials based solely on their educational content, but the practical side of me knows that any program that I'll actually use has to pass the Lauren-test.

PhotobucketHearBuilder Auditory Memory Software impressed me with the skills it covers and quickly became one of Lauren's most requested computer activities. Brennan and I also found ourselves playing "just one more game" on HearBuilder so that we could reach a higher level and get closer to finishing the mission. The higher levels were sometimes quite a challenge for me.

The program teaches key important listening and learning skills such as memory for number (3-7 digits), memory for words (3-5 words), memory for details (1-4 details), auditory closure (sentence completion), and memory for WH information.

I enjoyed challenging myself with the number memory activities. It was particularly difficult at the higher levels because the program paused for a few seconds before it allowed me to enter the answer.

Lauren's favorite activity was the memory for details. After hearing a brief description, she would have to pick the matching character. For instance, "Find the girl with the yellow shirt who is not walking a dog."

I'm interested to see how Lauren does as she progress through the levels on the WH questions. Often when I am reading a book to her, she struggles with remembering the details. The WH sections gives tells the student a few sentences about a mission and then asks related questions. For instance, "Where is the poodle?" or "How many times does he knock on the window?" I'm excited that this program provides plenty of practice in paying attention and then remembering what was said.

This computer program will definitely be a part of our school materials for next year. I may not tell Lauren that it's schoolwork, though. Perhaps I'll just be thrilled that she's getting so much valuable practice while she is playing one of her favorite computer games.


My package from Super Duper Publications included another treat for me -- a catalog of the other products they sell. I had a funny moment one afternoon when Lauren was at speech therapy. She had just finished her latest evaluation, and her speech therapist was giving me some recommendations. She mentioned a few products available from Super Duper Publications and offered to look up the website address for me. Once I stopped laughing, I told her I had just been drooling over my copy of their latest catalog. I now have an even longer "wish list" of things I'd like to order from them.

HearBuilder Auditory Memory is available from Super Duper Publications and normally costs $69.95 for the Home Edition. For the next month, you can use the coupon code BLGAM30 to receive a 30% discount on the program (expires 8/31/12).

Disclaimer: I received the HearBuilder Auditory Memory software as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.



Monday, July 23, 2012

It's always hard to say goodbye

Last Wednesday, I posted a pair of before and after pictures. The picture taken the day that Tim started his job in Arkansas, and the picture taken a little over a week ago when he handed over that job to someone new.

This is the military life. My dad mentioned to me on the phone today that I have more "military" experience than anyone else in our family. Perhaps so. I haven't ever been on active duty myself, but I was raised an Air Force brat and then married back into the Air Force. My mom says that I knew what I was getting in to. Maybe so.

But even after all of these moves, I'm not sure it gets easier.

It wasn't easy the night before Tim's change of command when he told me about his "Cheers" moment as he left the squadron that day. He was the last person out of the building, checking to make sure all the lights were off and then locking the front door behind him. I hugged him and we cried.

I didn't make it through Tim's speech at the change of command without crying, especially not after I noticed Brennan getting teary-eyed too. I managed to walk out of the doors without looking back that day, but I don't know how I managed to do it without crying.

I was teary-eyed at Addison's last choir concert, too. I'm thrilled that she found such a wonderful group to be a part of while we were here, and I wish that somehow we could take them with us.

I cried when I dropped off some hand-me-down educational games for a friend. She was my first "goodbye" -- the first time I was saying goodbye without knowing that there'd be another chance to bump into each other. I made it out her front door without crying. I didn't make it out of the neighborhood.

Yesterday was our last morning to worship with the church family we've grown to love while we've been here. There were lots of hugs and a few more tears.

I'm sure there will be another tear or two and a wistful look in the rearview mirror when we drive out of town in a few days.

Even as I struggle to say goodbye, I look forward to the future. I can't wait to see what adventures God has in store for us!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Christian Keyboarding (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

Over the years I've tried several different programs to teach my older two children to type correctly. I've pretty much given up on getting Addison to use the correct finger placement, but I think I still have a chance with Brennan and eventually with Lauren.

PhotobucketThe key I've found is consistent, supervised practice. Addison learned to type using Keyboarding for the Christian School a few years ago, but I didn't pay attention to what she was doing when she was typing the exercises. She types fairly quickly, but she doesn't necessarily use the correct touch typing fingers, and I'm not sure if she can type without looking at the keys. When I recently received the Elementary Version of Keyboarding for the Christian School, I decided to pay closer attention to Brennan's practice session.

Keyboarding for the Christian School is a very simple typing instruction textbook. Each of the 31 lessons introduces new keys and has four to six short exercises to type. There is a review lesson for additional practice after every sixth lesson. By the end of the book, the student has learned to type letters, numbers (including using a number keypad), and all punctuation marks. Some of the later lessons cover basic formatting using Word.

There aren't any fun games with this typing program. In fact, it reminds me of a dusty old typing manual that my mom checked out of the library when I was in about seventh grade. I've found that I  prefer using a simple typing program, one that just has the student typing words and sentences.

I realized that the key to good typing instruction is my involvement. I have seen Brennan playing typing games on other programs and just using whatever finger is convenient at the time. Since I'd like my children to become touch typists and to use the correct finger placement, I realized that I'd have to supervise typing practice until it became second nature. When Brennan sat down at the computer for keyboarding practice, I'd sit beside him to make sure that his fingers were indeed on the home row and that he was in fact using the correct finger for each letter. It takes a lot of my time in the beginning, but I hope it will pay off for him with faster, more accurate typing in the future.

Keyboarding for the Christian School is available as an ebook to download. When Addison used the regular version a few years ago, I printed out the pages for her to use. For Brennan, I usually opened up both the text and a blank Word document at the same time. I was able to arrange them on the computer screen so that he could see the instructions on the ebook and type in the blank document at the same time. Right now, we're traveling with just our laptop, and I have the keyboarding text on my nook for him to use.

One thing I am always interested in when reviewing a Christian product is how much Christian content is included and whether I agree with that content. In Keyboarding for the Christian School, there is a verse in the header at the top of every page. Once the student knows enough letter keys to type sentences, some of the practice exercises include scripture. Of note for me is the lesson on how to number a list of items. That practice page is a list titled "How to Have a Personal Relationship with God." When we get to that assignment, I will want to discuss their points with my children and compare them to our own beliefs.

Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary Version is available to download for $12.95, with a choice of either regular or large print for that price. Also, the company has generously offered a discount code for 20 percent off the purchase price until August 29, 2012. You can enter SUMMER2012 during the check-out process.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary Version as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Monday, July 16, 2012

"Who Is My Neighbor?" (Schoolhouse Crew Review)


One of the first things I learned about homeschooling my children was that they didn't always like the curriculum that I liked. I remember struggling through a year of second grade math and then realizing Addison just needed a different approach. I also remember days of excitedly pulling a read-aloud book off the shelf and seeing my kids fall asleep (literally) during the first chapter. I don't let my children have final say in what we study, but I have learned that sometimes I'm better off switching materials than fighting through something that doesn't work for my children.

Photobucket I recently received Apologia's "Who Is My Neighbor?" materials to review, and I once again fell in love with this series of books. I think the hardcover book is absolutely gorgeous, as is the Notebooking Journal. I like the way these Bible centered lessons tie together both Biblical concepts, historical events, and current applications.

The "Who Is My Neighbor?" book is the third in Apologia's elementary Worldview series. (You can read my review of the "Who Am I?" materials here.) This book contains eight lessons, and they can each be spread out over three weeks. The introduction suggests using the materials twice a week, but I think the reading and assignments are more manageable if we split them up over three or four days per week, still taking about three weeks per lesson.

My favorite part of the readings were the final sections of each lesson, Encounters with Jesus. Each one was a fictionalized retelling of one of the stories from the Gospels. I gained a deeper understanding of each of these stories by visualizing the scene as the author described how all of the details could have looked. I felt like I was really there when Jesus turned water into wine at a Canaanite wedding or when He used two fish and five small loaves of bread to feed thousands of people.

Each lesson also contained part of a short story about a child and his/her family. I confess that I read aloud a chapter or two (or three) to find out what happened to the Chang family when they escaped from China and immigrated to America. (Confession #2: even though we're still working in the first half of the book, I've already read all of the stories in the second half of the book, too.)

Unfortunately, these materials did not work well for my family this summer. My oldest daughter, fourteen years old and a high school freshman, thought that the materials were aimed at a younger audience. I think she could have gained a lot from the readings, but she said she'd prefer a different approach to Bible study.

The materials are geared to 6-14 year olds, but my six-year-old daughter was too young for the program. Lauren does not have the world history background to understand topics such as the Chinese Revolution or slavery in America during the time leading up to the Civil War. In addition, some of the Bible lesson readings contained a lot of challenging concepts in a short span of time, and she had trouble following along. It got to a point where we were all having a difficult time understanding what was being taught because I kept stopping to answer Lauren's questions.

Brennan, age 11, is right in the middle of the age range, but he doesn't do well with lessons that require a lot of listening. According to the publisher, the materials are written at about a 6th grade reading level, but we found them a bit too difficult for him to work through independently.

I think this book would work better for a family that routinely studies a subject together. In that scenario, the older students could discuss the materials and help explain it all to the younger ones. It would also help if the students were auditory learners and accustomed to grasping ideas when they are presented during lengthy readings.

So, as much as I love these materials, I'm putting them on the shelf for a while. I suspect that Brennan could work through them independently in a year or two. In a year or two, Lauren should have a longer attention span for school readings and a better historical background to understand the stories. Perhaps they'll even be able to study the materials together in a few years.

One thing I like about Apologia is the way that they provide generous sample pages so that you can get a better idea of what the materials look like. In the case of "Who Is My Neighbor?" the sample chapter contains the entire first lesson, approximately 30 pages. You can also download samples of the Notebooking Journal and Coloring Book. The hardcover text book costs $39, the notebooking journal costs $24, and the coloring book is $8.

Disclaimer: I received a set of Who Is My Neighbor? materials as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Think-Back Thursday: Bridges

At first I wasn't going to participate in Debbie's Think-Back Thursday meme this week because I couldn't think of any bridge pictures off the top of my head. When I saw her post this morning, I started thinking that I had some family pictures taken near a bridge at Manassas Battlefield. I wasn't that impressed with them when I found them; I couldn't really tell that it was a bridge.

Instead, I found a bunch of pictures from a camping trip with friends in August 2008. I had completely forgotten about our afternoon exploring the paths on the other side of this bridge.

I can't remember which of Lauren's broken arms this was, but I do remember that the cast didn't slow her down.

Family photo opportunity:

And then the rest of the story...

I don't remember exactly how it happened. You can see Lauren with her pacifier in the first picture, and I must've taken it away from her for the family shot. One of the next pictures shows it in the water below.

Big sister to the rescue!

Thank you, Debbie, for your photo meme that encourages me to go back a few years and relive some precious memories. You can find more pictures by clicking on her button below.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hewitt Literature (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I remember writing a post to some homeschooling friends when Addison was in about the second or third grade. I compared finding a good language arts program to hunting for the Holy Grail. Imagine Indiana Jones brandishing his whip as he snuck between booths in the vendor hall at a large homeschooling convention.

I really thought that by now, five or six years later, that I would've found the Language Arts Holy Grail. I still dream of finding a program that spells out everything I need to cover everything I'd consider part of the all-encompassing "Language Arts" label -- reading, literature analysis, composition, vocabulary, spelling, etc.

Instead I still search. In a sense, I'm glad I haven't yet labeled one product "The Holy Grail" and quit searching. I keep uncovering language arts treasures along the journey.

Addison has been using one of Hewitt Homeschooling's Lightning Literature programs lately. I gave her the choice of several of their high school level courses, and she chose "American Literature: Mid-Late 19th Century."
This semester long course covers:
* Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
* Selected poems by Walt Whitman
* "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte (short story)
* Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
* Selected poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar
* The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
* Selected poems by Emily Dickinson
* The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Each of the eight lessons includes comprehension questions, a literary lesson, and several suggestions for writing assignments. The comprehension assignments are a variety of short answer, multiple choice, and matching questions. Most of them are fact-based, not interpretive or analytical. The literary lessons cover theme, sound and imagery, humor, description, figurative language, and more.

A big focus of this curriculum is the writing assignments. In fact, Addison said, "It's a writing program based off of literature rather than a literature program with a bit of writing." Over the course of the semester, the student is expected to write 12 papers -- 2 for each of the longer works and one for each of the shorter works. The materials suggest that each of these papers is approximately 2 pages or 3-5 paragraphs long. For Addison the prospect of writing 12 papers in 18 weeks was a bit daunting. There is an alternate year-long schedule that we could use or I could simply require fewer papers while covering the reading assignments at the same pace.

In terms of the writing assignments themselves, I liked the choices that the student was given. There were 5-8 options for each work, and the choices were divided between formal literary analysis papers and creative writing assignments. For instance, one of the options for Huckleberry Finn is, "Huck undergoes a great chance in the way her perceives slaves. Write a paper illustrating that change, using quotes from the book to support yourself." Another option for the same book reads, "Write a humorous description of someone you know. Use at lease one humorous simile or metaphor." (The literary focus for Huckleberry Finn was humor.) For the poetry lessons, at least one of the writing assignment suggestions is to write a poem that meets certain criteria.

So what's the bottom line? Is this finally the Holy Grail I've been looking for? I don't know. I'm beginning to suspect that I'll never find a perfect program.

What I have found is a real treasure for High School level classes. Addison still needs a bit more writing instruction before she really digs into a program like the high school Lightning Literature courses. It provides lots of composition practice, but only a little composition instruction. I do think these materials are great preparation for a college level class that requires lots of literary analysis papers, and I may look at getting another one of the Lightning Literature courses for Addison to use in her Junior or Senior year.

The student guide for the American Literature: Mid-Late 19th Century is 160 pages long and costs $29.95. The companion teacher's guide contains a suggested daily schedule, grading guidelines, and answers to all of the comprehension question for only $2.95. Hewitt Homeschooling offers 12 different Lightning Lit options for high school students, each a semester's worth of work. There are also Lightning Lit materials for seventh and eighth grade students.

Disclaimer: I received Lightning Lit & Comp, American Literature: Mid-Late 19th Century as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Goal Planning Monday -- Moving Craziness 7/9

I feel like this post should start with a title reminiscent of Winnie-the-Pooh:

In Which We Have Done So Much To Get Ready For a Move 
and Have Barely Started

What we accomplished last week (aka what goals I met): 
1. Bible reading is still caught up. The counters were sometimes clean, and I remember going to bed at a reasonable time once or twice. We did reading time most of the days that Tim was at work, but skipped it in the busyness of the weekends and holidays.

2. The schoolwork to take is boxed up. I just need to re-gather Lauren's easy readers and tuck in there.

3. All the important medical records are in a binder.

4. All of my recipes are in binders. As I was putting them in page protectors, I realized that much of the stack was printed before we even moved here (2 years ago). Not only did I mark something off of my moving to-do list, I finished something on my unwritten "hope to-do" list.

5. My clothes are sorted into a to-take side and a to-move pile. A whole lot went to Goodwill, too.

6. I've written several blog posts, some of which are scheduled for later this week.

7. Tim took down the trampoline yesterday afternoon, and it's now moved into a friend's yard. I helped a little, but he gets most of the credit for working while I went to the Commissary.

8. We took apart Brennan's basketball goal and emptied the base so that it'll be ready to move. 

This week's goals:
1. Clean out the pantry. Find a way (or several ways) to use the seven five cans of cherries in there.

2. Gather all of the kitchen stuff that I don't want the movers to pack. I plan on taking quite a bit so that we can survive temporary housing for a few months. I've found in the past that even a furnished kitchen doesn't have all the niceties that I like to have when I'm cooking.

3. Plan Lauren's half-birthday party (this Saturday).

4. Find the four library books that are MIA. (Perhaps already back at the library, but not returned off of my account.)

5. Figure out if all the stuff that we want to take with us in the cars will actually fit in the cars (and leave room for passengers).

6. Make sure all of the important files are moved to the laptop computer that we'll have with us while we're moving and living in temporary housing. It will pain me to say goodbye to "my" desktop computer when I let the movers load it on the truck next week.

7. Help Addison pack for her Mission Trip and Choir Tour.

8. Keep smiling! I'll do my part in handling the craziness and trust that God will make it all work out in the end.

I'm linking my Goal Planning Monday post with others at Real Life Unscripted. Feel free to click the button above to join us!

Geocaching: A Steeple Chase Challenge

A few weekends ago, Brennan and Tim came back from a Boy Scout outing and were talking about geocaching. That night they found a few simple caches within a mile or so of our neighborhood. The next afternoon, they found a more adventurous challenge. Even though we live in a relatively small town, someone has created a Steeple Chase.

We left home with a list of 24 coordinates, photographs of 24 church steeples,  a clue sheet, and our GPS.

When we found a set of coordinates, we'd be sitting near a church. The first challenge was to match the steeple on that church with the photograph of the steeple. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I agree with someone on the geocaching website who said that all of these churches must've ordered from the same steeple catalog.

When we matched a church steeple with a picture, we could find out its code number. You can see my scribbles where we recorded the name of the church and its matching picture.

Our job was only half done when we figured out which number belonged to which church steeple. While I was marking off which coordinates we had visited and which church belonged to which photograph, Brennan was looking at the code sheet.

To decipher the final geocache coordinates, he did the math problems needed to translate 3A BC DEF 09G HI JKL into coordinates.

As we neared our final set of coordinates, I began to worry that we may not have gotten all of the steeples matched up correctly. A single mistake might throw off all of the calculations. I was quite relieved when we pulled up in front of the final church and saw that its steeple did indeed look exactly like the remaining unmatched photograph.

Brennan quickly finished the last math problem and gave us the deciphered coordinates. It was getting dark, but we headed off to find the cache. We found ourselves back at one of the first churches along our route. Lauren was excited to finally be out of the car and was eager to see what treasures were in the cache.

We only thought the hard part was over. We found the coordinates but then had the hardest time finding the cache. At one point, we unwrapped a bundle of plastic bags that we found hidden in the bushes only to find that it really was just trash. Finally, I found the ammo box hidden under an overgrown shrub.

Lauren traded a plastic toy bear and a tape measure for a deck of cards and a McDonald's toy. 

Brennan claims he hit the jackpot -- he traded a matchbox car for a lint roller. If only every geocache had such great treasures.


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