Our Family

Our Family

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Progeny Press

Progeny Press Review
Progeny Press carries a wide variety of literature study guides for lower elementary all the way through high school.  As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we recently had an opportunity to review study guides for The Giver and The Door in the Wall
Progeny Press Study Guides help students better understand and enjoy literature and show them how to think through the themes and ideas introduced in the stories.  In addition to the guide and the book, students will also need: a good dictionary, a thesaurus, a Bible, and at times access to the Internet.  Most middle and high school guides will take from 8-10 weeks to complete with students completing one section per week. 
 Elementary will probably take a little less time.  Progeny Press recommends that the student complete the novel before beginning the study guide and be allowed to refer back to the book while working through the guide.  
Progeny Press Review
The Giver Study Guide is recommended for children in grades 5-8.  The study guide is available to be purchased as an interactive download, CD, or printed workbook.  We received the interactive download to review which can be purchased for $18.99.  Progeny Press sells the book for $8.99 if you choose to purchase it from them, or you can buy it elsewhere, or borrow it from the library.  An answer key is included.
The Giver Study Guide is 60 pages long.  The guide contains brief notes to the instructor, book synopsis, author information, background information, and suggestions for pre reading activities.  The assignments are divided up into sections: Chapters 1 and 2 together, 3,4, and 5, 6, 7, and 8, 9, 10, and 11, 12-16, 17-20, and 21-23.  Some of the activities include: vocabulary questions, comprehension questions, questions about setting, digging deeper, thinking about the story, discussion questions, optional writing assignments, essay questions, and summary questions.
I had my 12 year old sixth grade son read the Giver on his own and work through one section of the study guide per week.  He completed these activities independently. We used the study guide on the iPad in Notability.

Progeny Press Review
The Door in the Wall is recommended for students in grades 3-5.  It also is available as an interactive download, a CD, or printed workbook.  You can purchase the downloadable interactive study guide for $16.99 and the book from Progeny Press for $6.99.  An answer key is included.
There are 37 pages in the study guide.  The guide contains: brief notes to the instructor, synopsis, information about the author/illustrator, background information, and ideas for pre reading activities.  There are no chapter numbers in the book so the sections are split up by using the first few words of each chapter.  For example the first section is titled, " Robin drew the coverlet..." and " May came in..."  Activities include vocabulary questions, comprehension questions, thinking about the story, digging deeper, discussion questions, fact and opinion, similes and metaphors, and conclusion questions.
My 4th grade son used this study guide.  I had him read the book independently and then we went through the study guide together working on one part of each section per day.  He also did his on the iPad.

 I have had an opportunity to review Progeny Press twice in the past, both times being the High School level guides.  We enjoyed both of those studies, so I was excited for my younger boys to have an opportunity to use a study guide, especially after we had finished our writing course for the year and I needed something constructive and worthwhile for them to do to fill in their time.

I think the Progeny Press Study Guides are a great way for children to dig deeper into and learn more about wonderful children's literature.  Progeny Press has a huge selection of guides for a wide variety of age ranges so there is sure to be some choices your child will enjoy.  The questions and activities are age appropriate for the recommended levels.  I think the digging deeper questions are my favorite and the vocabulary sections.  So many times we continue reading even when we are not completely sure of the meaning of a word and I think the vocabulary sections really help give children a good understanding of the words.  I personally like the interactive feature of the guides as it saves ink and paper, but you do have the option to print the pages out and write in them if you wish.  Middle and high schoolers can complete the guides independently, elementary ages may need more help and guidance.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reading Improvement For The Struggling Reader

 I got an email the other day from a lady who had found my blog and read several of my old posts on struggling readers.  I wrote this one back in 2011, this one in 2012, and this one in 2013.  In her email, she wanted to know how my struggling reader was doing now.  She has a son who is struggling and she has been doing many of the things I talked about in those blog posts but wanted to know if my son was able to be successful without being tested or paying for expensive tutors.  I thought I would turn my response into  blog post because I know this is a topic that many people are interested in.  If only I had saved that email it would be a little easier for me to remember what I said, but I will do my best anyway :)

My son who I was writing about in those blog posts is now 10 1/2 years old.  He is reading.  He enjoys reading chapter books and they do not frustrate or intimidate him any more. The largest amount of progress I saw with him was this past school year right before he turned ten.  We still use many of the methods I wrote about in those earlier blog posts.  I read aloud all of our history and science every day.  Just in the middle of this year he was able to start reading through his Bible assignments and completing them on his own.  He still listens to audio books regularly, mostly at night before bed and we also listen in the car.  We are still using All About Spelling for spelling.  We are in the middle of Level 4.  Every day after completing his AAS lesson, Alex reads aloud to me from books that I have chosen for him off of Sonlight's reading list.  While I put no emphasis at all on the importance of standardized testing and do not believe they are any kind of accurate measure of knowledge, my son went from scoring in the 37th percentile last year for reading comprehension to the 81st percentile this year.

While all of those things are wonderful, that does not mean that all of his struggles have or will disappeared.  He will never be a fantastic speller.  There are days when I would like to beat my head against the table because while he knows the rule backward and forward and has spelled 3/4 of the words on the list correctly using the rule he will spell the rest of them incorrectly.  When doing Math, he sometimes will turn 12 into 21 or vice versa. We did SWI A from IEW this year, and while he understood the concepts perfectly and came up with some fantastic ideas for his papers, he had a really hard time writing them.  It seemed to me like he had to concentrate so hard on the words he was writing that he would forget all of the things he wanted to say.  So, what we did was he dictated what he wanted to say to me and I wrote everything down for him.  He got all the necessary components into his work and got to check everything off of his list.  He came up with some pretty great papers too!

It is possible to help your struggling reader improve without professional testing or tutoring.  There may be some testing you might want to do like vision or eye tracking problem to make sure those are not causing the reading problems.  I think sometimes time is the most important thing.  For some reason we have decided in our society that children need to be reading by the age of 5 or 6 and if you are not there is something wrong.  I have read many articles that suggest that boys are not developmentally ready to read until after the age of 9 or 10 and that by not pushing them to read at a young age makes it much easier to learn when they are a little older.  My oldest son was an early reader, but my next 3 have not been.  After learning all that I have learned with Alex over the years, I am not worried about the other two (who are 7 and 8 right now) at all.  We will keep reading aloud, working on our spelling, and choosing books that they find interesting to read.  I expect by the time they hit age 10 they will be reading like their big brother.

  `Happy Homeschooling!!

*link to AAS is my affiliate link.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Apologia Educational Ministries

Apologia Review
As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I have been greatly blessed to review a wide variety of products from Apologia Educational Ministries.  Although they are most commonly known for their science curriculum, they also offer a variety of books and resources for homeschool parents and worldview curriculum.  Recently we had an opportunity to use and review the What on Earth Can I Do? hardback book, What On Earth Can I Do? Notebooking Journal, What On Earth Can I Do Junior Notebooking Journal, and What On Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book. 
What On Earth Can I Do? Is the 4th book in the What We Believe Series.  Each of the 4 books in the series are stand alone books and do not need to be taught in order, but you can teach them in order if you wish. Vol 1 Who Is God and Can I Really Know Him? teaches Biblical worldview of God and truth.  Vol 2 Who Am I and What Am I Doing Here? teaches about the Biblical worldview of self and images.  Vol 3 Who Is My Neighbor and Why Does He Need Me? teaches the Biblical worldview of servant hood, and Vol 4 What On Earth Can I Do teaches the Biblical worldview of stewardship.  This series was designed for grades 1-6, but it can be used with children a little older and younger siblings can listen in as well. Depending on how much you complete each day you can complete a book in 4-8 months.  

There are 8 lessons in What On Earth Can I Do?:

Lesson 1: Your Story or God's Story?

Lesson 2: Who Put You In Charge?

Lesson 3: Will You Be Found Faithful?

Lesson 4: Where Is Your Treasure?

Lesson 5: Where Does Your Time Go?

Lesson 6: Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Lesson 7: Why Isn't It Easy Being Green?

Lesson 8: What Will Happen When the Master Returns?

Each lesson has several different components.

The Big Idea-Introduction to the main topic of the lesson
What Will You Do?-learning objectives for the lesson
Short Story-story featuring characters your children can relate to showing children what a worldview looks like in action.
Think About It-questions that dig deeper into the short story
Words You Need to Know-vocabulary words and definitions
Hide It In Your Heart-2 Bible verses for memorization
Integrated Learning-articles designed to help students pursue the book's ideas across the fields of science, math, art, history, and more.
What Should I Do?-helps students apply the lesson to their own lives
Prayer-helps children acknowledge the gifts of God and thank Him for all He has done
Parable of Jesus-a story adapted from a teaching story Jesus told during his ministry.  These stories are faithful to the teachings of Jesus but do add in details such as character names and cultural details.
Going Deeper-discussion questions about the parables and what they mean for us today
House of Truth-4 lessons end with a House of Truth addition.  The House of Truth is meant to be a hands on memory aid 

Now that you know a little about what the book is about, let's look at all of the individual components we used for our review.
Apologia Review

The What On Earth Can I Do text book  ($39) is a 294 page hardcover book.  This book contains all of the lessons as listed above.  It is the only book that is absolutely needed for this course.  There is no teacher book, everything you need to teach is contained in the text book.

Apologia Review

The What On Earth Can I Do? Notebooking Journal ($24)  is a 236 page spiral bound paper back book. The notebooking journal is a place where your child can store all of his work for the course.  In it you will find: blank note-taking pages, think about it questions, words to know definition pages, hide it in my heart copywork pages, make a note of it, word puzzles, mini books, my prayer, praise report pages, I Spy pages, Living Out Loud, do you remember questions, and find out more resources.  There are also lesson plans you can use as a guide. Even though the course is flexible and you can do as much/little as you wish these pages come in handy if you want a schedule to follow or just want to keep track of what you have completed.

Apologia Review

The What On Earth Can I Do Junior Notebooking Journal ($24) is a spiral bound 184 page paperback book.  This book is similar to the regular notebooking journal but was made with 6-9 year olds in mind.  In it you will find blank note taking pages, coloring pages, words to know fill in the blanks, make a note of it drawing pages, word puzzles, mini books, my prayer, praise report, I Spy, Living Out Loud, and find out more resource list.  It also contains lesson plans to follow.

Apologia Review

The What Can I Do Coloring Book ($8) is a 64 page paperback book.  This book contains beautiful illustrations for younger children to color while listening to the book being read that will help reinforce the stewardship lessons being taught.

I used What On Earth Can I Do? with my 3,5,7,8,10, and 12 year olds.  I followed the suggested schedule in the notebooking journals.  I read the text aloud to the children.  My 10 and 12 year olds worked on the regular notebooking journal together, my 7 and 8 year olds worked on the junior notebooking journal together, and my 3 and 5 year olds did the coloring pages in the coloring book and the junior notebooking journal.

I have had an opportunity to review each of the other books in the series, so I was very excited to be able to review this set as well.  When you are teaching a wide age range of children, it can be hard to find products that you can use with everyone.  I really like that Apologia has developed a set of products for this curriculum so that everyone in the family can participate.  The notebooking journals are a beautiful place to keep all your children's work in one place and provide a variety of interesting activities to reinforce what your children are learning.  The coloring book is just perfect for the little girls to give them something to do while I am reading.  The illustrations are beautiful!  The Junior Notebooking Journal is great for that 6-9 year old range who are old enough to do something on their own, but not old enough to work in the regular notebooking journal yet.  My Anthony was so proud he completed a word search all by himself!

Here is a look at some of the different journal pages



Some of the activities are the same in both journals.
I really like the way the lesson plans break down the lessons.  The chapters are a bit lengthy and by just looking in the text it can be hard to find a good stopping place or figure out what to do when.  The lesson plans break everything down into nice digestible chunks.  You do not have to do every page in the journal or every mini book if you do not want to.  You can pick and choose the activities if you would rather.

As for the lessons themselves, I don't know that I can adequately explain how much I love them!  It is an important thing for children to learn how and why they need to be good stewards.  The book is written in a very conversational tone and the contents are relevant and interesting while teaching these important truths.  I love the interesting science, history, math, and art information that is presented throughout the book.  The short stories that we have read through in the book are about a family during WWII and I have to tell you that I think my children have learned more about this time period through this study than they did in our American History course this year.  Not just things like names and dates, but what it really looked and felt like to be there and going through it at the time.  The Parables of Jesus do stay true to the parables written in the Bible, but they do add names, feelings, and some details.  I think the inclusion of these parables helps the children gain a better understanding of the topic they are studying in the book.  We do always go back to the original written in the Bible and compare the two, but the children have enjoyed reading them as written in What On Earth Can I Do?

One thing I did want to mention is that even though the age range says around grades 1-6, and there definitely are things that children in those age ranges can do with the coloring book and the junior notebooking journal, if I just had children in the younger range, I would hold off a few years.  I think the best age for this study is 10-12 or so.  Because I have children in the older range, I am thankful that there are activities for the younger ones to tag along and do.  They do get something out of the readings and activities, but the best conversations and understanding has definitely been with my two older boys.  

To read what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.  

Click to read Crew Reviews

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Curriculum Favorites: Mystery of History

History is my absolute favorite subject.  Over the years we have used a lot of different types of history curricula supplements that we have really, really liked.  But, my absolute favorite history curriculum is The Mystery of History.

The first time I ever heard of the Mystery of History was at a small homeschool convention several years ago.  A friend of mine was hoping to find Mystery of History at the used book sale they held at the convention.  I had never heard of it before so when I came home I went to the website and checked it out.  I really liked what I saw, but I already had curricula to use for the next school year and didn't have the extra money to spend.  That year I had too many different things going on with each child using a "grade level" curriculum.  I had 3 school age children then and it was already hard to juggle all the different assignments.  I couldn't imagine what it would look like in a few years with at least 6 children to homeschool!  I went back to the Mystery of History website and the next August we started Vol 1 Creation to the Resurrection.  The next year we went on Vol 2.  This year we took a break and did a year of American History since Alex had never done American history and Nick had done very little.  Next fall we will be continuing on with Mystery of History Vol 3 and hopefully Vol IV will be available to purchase soon.

What do I love about Mystery of History?

It is creation based and chronological starting with the creation of the world.  Very few history courses start with creation.  It shows a great picture of what is taking place all over the world during the different time periods of history instead of focusing on one area at a time.

It is complete.  All you "need" to teach the curricula is in one book, with the exception of Vol 3 that was split into 2 books.  There are other suggested resources but those are if you want to study a topic more in depth and not necessary to complete the curriculum.

It can be used with all of your children grades k-12.  Different levels of activities are listed for different age groups.  The lessons are easy to teach and fun and interesting for the teacher and the student.  The author has a beautiful way of writing and more than once a lesson has brought me to tears!  I have learned a LOT about history that I never knew before.

There are plenty of hands on activities to pick and choose from.  You do not have to do all (or really any if you don't want to) but the ones chosen really are a good hands on way to bring history alive to your students.

"map" of Ancient Egypt
It includes mapping activities and the necessary maps and keys are included in the book.

It includes timeline activities for each lesson.  Instructions are given to make your own timeline figures if you wish, but I have to say that we LOVE Amy Pak's timeline figures from Home School In the Woods!  They are beautiful and make my life so much easier than trying to make each timeline figure.  Suggestions are also given for different types of timelines.

There are extra resources available that you can purchase if you choose such as coloring pages, challenge cards, notebooking pages, folderbooks, memory games, audio Cd's and more.  Again these are not required but it is great they offer so many supplements to choose from if you want them.

I have heard criticisms that Mystery of History is not "enough" for High School.  I used it with Chelsea in 10th and 11th grade and found it to be more than enough.  By completing the activities in the older section she spent more than enough time to earn her history credits and she learned quite a bit and enjoyed the course thoroughly.

We can't wait to get started on Mystery of History Vol 3 this August!

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May Grandview Program

I am running a bit behind getting this posted since the program was last week, but better late than never.  At our May Grandview program we continued on in our Animal Classification series.  We have done programs and completed lapbooks on Mammals, Amphibians , and Reptiles in previous months.  This month we did Insects.

After a brief talk about insects covering things like what 3 things they have in common, what they eat, how they see, taste, smell, hear and defend themselves, the children started to "become" insects.  They got a pair on sunglasses to glue eyes on to make compound eyes, a headband to put on antennae, a noise maker for a proboscis, and we made legs and an abdomen out of plastic bags and paper.

After we settled the children down a bit, we made a craft that turned a caterpillar into a butterfly using craft sticks, tape, and pompoms.

That used up all of our time, but we got to take home the supplies to build some really cool bug boxes.

And the supplies to make an insect folder for our Animal Classification lapbook.

That was our last visit to Grandview for a few months.  We will start back in August.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Trident Case

Trident Case Review
Technology has really changed the face of homeschooling.  Many families have tablets that they allow their children to use to do different kinds of schoolwork and play educational and fun apps.  After spending a lot of money on these devices, they need good strong cases to protect what they have purchased.  I was recently given an opportunity to use and review the KRAKEN A.M.S. Case For Apple iPad 2/3/4 from Trident Case.
Trident Case Review
The Kraken  A.M.S. Case For Apple iPad  2/3/4  is compatible with the New iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3, and iPad 4.  It comes in a variety of colors including: black, maroon, orange, purple, Trident green, red, pink, and blue.  The case is the strongest, most durable case that Trident makes.  It contains an absorbent, shock absorbing silicone inner layer, covered by a hardened polycarbonate outer casing, and has a built in screen protector.  It also has silicone plugs and dust filters to cover and protect power ports, audio jacks, and speakers.  The cases contain a technology that redirects sound to the front of the tablet for a better listening experience. The Kraken A.M.S. cases meet military standards for drop, vibration, dust, and sand.  It is made out of bio-enhanced plastic making it eco-friendly.  The case can be purchased for $69.95 and is suitable for all ages.  There are additional accessories you can purchase if you choose such as: stand holder, windshield mount, bike mount, hand strap, and more.  

There are several other devices that Trident makes the Kraken A.M.S. case for including the iPad mini, the iPad AIR, iPhone 5 and 5s, Kindle Fire HDX 7 and HDX 8.9, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and 10.1. 
I have an iPad 2 and I chose the purple Kraken A.M.S. Case for Apple iPad 2/3/4.

There are 8 of us that all share this iPad ages 3,5,7,8,10,12 17, and 36.  With the children passing it around and the fact that we have ceramic tile floors, I need a case that is going to be very sturdy because it is going to get dropped and be handled roughly.  Our iPad gets a ton of use and we take it with us on the go a lot,  so I need something that is going to last a long time as well.  

When our Kraken A.M.S case arrived, my 12 year old had it put on the iPad in a matter of minutes.  I really liked the look and feel of the case, and I loved the color.  I was glad that it had the built in screen protector. My favorite feature is the covers over top of all of the ports and plugs.  Over the last several weeks the ipad has been dropped and passed around numerous times and the case has protected the iPad from the children being children well.

One thing we have noticed with the case is that the corner pieces seem to come out quite a bit and we have to keep pushing them back in.  Also, even though I loved idea of the built on screen protector, it didn't take long at all for it to get scratched and dirty.  I wish that the screen protector itself was as durable as the rest of the case.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.
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Review: Seasons of Tomorrow by Cindy Woodsmall

Seasons of Tomorrow is the 4th and last book in the Amish Vines and Orchards series.  I had an opportunity to review For Every Season, Book 3 last year.  You can find my review here.  In book 4, Rhoda, Samuel, Landon, Leah, Steven, and Phoebe continue on with their work to make the orchard a success.  Things are moving along nicely and the business is becoming a success.  Rhoda and Samuel continue to care for each other, although from a bit of a distance as there still is some uncertainty as to how their relationship can progress without Jacob's blessing.  Jacob will not return any phone calls or have any contact with any of them.  He is licking his wounds working for his uncle's construction company in Virginia.  Leah and Landon's relationship continues to grow and becomes known outside of Orchard Bend Farms threatening all those in the community.  Decisions have to be made to decide what is best for all not just two.  Tragedy strikes when one of their lives hang in the balance.  Will Jacob return to help those remaining?  Can they all work together in harmony to save the orchard?

There is a short synopsis in the front of the book catching the reader who has not read the whole series up so you could read this as a stand alone book, but it would be better to have read the whole series.  I came in at book 3 and wished I had started at the beginning.  I have read several books by Cindy Woodsmall and though they are not what I consider "typical" Amish fiction, I have enjoyed every one I have read.  That was true for Seasons of Tomorrow as well.  I couldn't put it down!  Actually, I read it twice.  I loved the story.  I loved the characters.  The author makes you care about each one of the main characters in the book.  They grow and change throughout the course of the book.  I think the author did a great job resolving all of the conflicts in the story in a way that made them real and believable and not just a magical "happily ever after" ending.  Even Rhoda's gift of intuition that I was unsure about when I started reading book 3 was handled in a very good way.  I loved the resolution of all of the relationships and even the orchard and community itself. Another winner by Cindy Woodsmall!

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own and I received no other compensation.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Arkansas Homeschool Graduation

The Education Alliance  holds two graduation ceremonies in Arkansas.  One is held in NWA and for the last 16 years the other is held at the Harding University campus in Searcy Arkansas.  At the beginning of this school year, we started making plans to attend the graduation this year since Chelsea was graduating.  My mom and dad got the time off so they could fly in from Florida to come see Chelsea graduate.

The Education Alliance charges $75 for early bird registration.  For this price you get to attend the ceremony, and get a cap and gown to keep, and your diploma.  They also have a professional photographer taking pictures and a videographer making videos if you wish to purchase them.  You have to send in a copy of your homeschool paperwork and your transcript to sign up to be part of the graduation.  You also have to send in some photos for the slide show and fill out a short biography page.

The hardest part for us, was the drive.  The Harding Campus is 2 hours and 41 minutes from our house.  The rehearsal was at 3:00 and the ceremony was starting at 4:00.  We left the house at 10:45 so we could eat lunch when we got to Searcy.  The children were very well behaved in the van.  We chose Western Sizzlin to eat because the children like to eat at buffet restaurants.  We got to the campus at 2:50.  I was hoping the children could walk around outside and stretch their legs a bit during the rehearsal, but it was COLD!  It was only 58 degrees when we got there and cloudy.  None of us had coats and we were all in short sleeves.  We were freezing inside there was no chance we were going to get to walk around outside.  So they had to sit, but they did great!

The ceremony itself was very nice.  There were 83 graduates and it took a little over 2 hours.  Tricia Goyer (the author, I have reviewed a few of her books!) was the key note speaker.  She had a very nice speech to give to the graduates and then she helped hand out the diplomas.

As each student walked across the stage, their picture was shown in the TV screens and the info that we filled out on the biographical information sheet was read.

After they awarded the diplomas, they had each student that won scholarships stand and they read the amounts that they had won from the colleges they will be attending and other places.  There was a combined amount of close to $1,000,000!

They also had two students who gave speeches and two different musical performances.

At the end there was a slide show showing three pictures of each student: one as an infant, one in the middle years, and one as a senior.  It was really cute!

We did get a few pictures before we left (inside of course!)

The ceremony was very nice and I am so glad we went!  I can't believe my baby has officially graduated!

Happy Homeschooling!