Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Like an Architect

Thinking Like an Architect

One of the greatest parts of being on the Homeschool Review Crew is the opportunity to add some amazing variety to my high school kids' transcripts.  Thinking Like an Architect was one of those amazing moments.

Innovators Tribe has two fantastic STEM programs available right now, with a third coming soon.  The Crew also had a chance to review Thinking Like an Engineer, so definitely hit the banner down below to see what people thought of that one.  Thinking Like a Carpenter is the "coming soon" one, and it looks really neat.

Technology and Engineering Education, the T and E of STEM Education, is what Innovators Tribe is all about.  They want to make TEE courses available to middle and high school students everywhere.  This isn't just for engineers, everyone needs to be technologically literate these days.  That means more than just being knowledgeable about computers.  Homeschoolers seem pretty on top of the computer technology aspect, but the rest of TEE has been a lot harder to teach. 

Mr. Kroeplin (aka Mr. K) is trying to change that, and these courses are a great way to make technology happen. 

Thinking Like an Architect is for 6th-12th grades, and I happen to have four students in that range (6th, 8th, 10th and 12th).  I decided that all four would do the course, and the older two will get high school credit for it.  One awesome aspect of this course is that the subscription can be used for an entire household. 

Since my kids started getting older, it has been harder to do school the way we used to.  I loved the days of sitting everyone down and reading aloud from various literature, biography, science, and history books.  Everyone was learning at their own level.  Those were some of my favorite homeschool days.

This course has given us a bit of that back, since I can use it with everyone.  Trina is learning a lot, but pretty much glazed over when math was seriously involved (one project involves estimating the height of your house, and that was reasonably challenging math).  That's okay with me.  I expect she is going to go absolutely crazy in the final section where you design your dream house.  Her having fun is far more important to me than whether she grasps the geometry involved in some of the details.

My high school students can get a little deeper, still doing this at their level.  Each course is around 30 hours of work, between the video and power point presentations and the activities assigned.  That translates to 1/4 credit.  I'm hoping that Innovators Tribe is planning a fourth course, so that in working through all of them, I'd have a pretty easy full credit in TEE.  Easy for me, not necessarily easy for them.

I like courses that are easy for me.

You need very few supplies, which is fantastic.  The lessons are very easy to work through, and the projects definitely get you thinking.  It is important to actually pay attention to what he tells you to do and to actually read instructions.  As you go through the course, you have opportunities to do a variety of activities, from researching an architect, to building an architect scale, to creating a blueprint of your house (see image below), to working with software to design and build a model of your dream house.

You can see a bit about how the course interface works in the image above.  The green checkmarks show lessons we have completed, and the green circle is the lesson we are currently on.  We can look ahead to see how long the various upcoming lessons will take, which is handy.  As you work through the course, you click the green arrows in the bottom right to advance through.  On that main screen, there is a "Resources" link that I had completely missed initially.  That gives you links to all kinds of fantastic information, sorted by lesson.  We just had to go back and watch a National Geographic video from lesson two, as "Great Cathedral Mystery" sounded too good to skip!

In the lesson pictured above, the kids have just learned a whole lot about blueprints and the symbols on them, and they are working on figuring out lengths of some of the rooms and other such things, using a REAL blueprint (okay, a pdf of a real blueprint).  We put it up on the screen so that everyone could work on it together, and that worked out pretty well.  Thomas is looking at the worksheet, and he and Richard are pointing to the sections they need to add up, I believe.  If I snapped the photo ten seconds later, Thomas would be pointing to the other part, anyway.  He had glanced back at the page and his hand moved.

The next lesson had them drawing a simple blueprint, of a chicken house.  They were to use the architect scale they had assembled in a previous lesson.  This lesson took a fair amount of time, more for some of my more detail-oriented children. 

The best part of this class, though, is the software that we get to use in designing our dream houses.  That part happens in the final section of the course, and we are just now getting to it.

Home Designer looks pretty incredible.  I've looked ahead and watched some of the tutorial videos, and this is going to be a very interesting set of lessons.

One really fun thing is that there is now an Architecture badge in American Heritage Girls.  Trina probably won't earn the badge this year, but one of the optional requirements is to design her dream home, another is to design the craziest house idea she can, and yet another is to design a house for a pet or other animal.  She can easily do the optional requirements (she needs to do two optionals) for this badge once we are through the course.

I am going to have her go through this course again as a 7th grader, as the badge requirements for 7th-9th grades are really easy to complete with Thinking Like an Architect.  She has to learn about different types of architectural drawings and draw her house with them.  She needs to learn about three American architects, and a female architect, so I'd adapt the research requirement in this course to fit the badge.  Designing a dream house with 3-D modeling software and a problem-solving optional requirement both fit this course well too.  In addition, she'd need to visit a construction site and an architecture firm.  Redoing this next year would mean that Richard could do it for high school credit as well.

I highly recommend Innovators Tribe for middle or high school, and I really look forward to seeing what else they come out with!

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It is autumn, and time for fuzzy socks

This is my favorite time of year.  I love getting up when it is really cool outside.  Cool enough that I put on my bathrobe, and grab a pair of slippers.  Or the fuzzy slipper socks.

Only this time of year is also when I struggle to find a pair of anything.  I already knew I had one gray slipper, and one bright blue slipper, and I have no idea what happened to the other half of either pair.

So this morning I went to grab slipper socks.

And... I'm not making it up... this is what I found:

Okay, so I straightened them out a bit to take the picture.  But those are the slipper socks I found, in the order I found them.

I did finally find two pairs, once I went to the basket of clean clothes that hasn't been sorted.  There was a black one, and a red patterned one in there.  So I am wearing a matching pair right now, and can put one on tomorrow too.

I keep thinking there is probably some sort of message in this.  Like maybe it is time I start actually pairing stuff up when it comes out of the dryer, or that I need to go find a 20-pack of identical slipper socks so I don't have to worry about it.

Or maybe it is that getting a job done is more important than what that all looks like.  Appearances don't matter so much.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Evidence That Demands a Verdict - Coming October 3!

I spent the past couple of days taking my high school senior and sophomore to visit their brother in college.  They do a weekend event, Focus, where high schoolers get a chance to come, attend some classes, hang out, and learn a bit about the school.

I ended up staying in the home of a couple who are on staff at the school.  We stayed up at least as late as the boys did on Friday night.  Both of my sweet hosts work at the school.  She is the registrar.  He (among other things) teaches an apologetics class to seniors.

We were discussing books in general, and she was giving him a bad time about how many books he's purchased in the past month.  He told her that he'll be purchasing a couple more here shortly, as the brand-new, fourth edition Evidence That Demands a Verdict is coming out next week.

As I have been reading a digital version of that updated book, I perked right up.

The original Evidence That Demands a Verdict was one of the very first apologetics books out there that was actually accessible to normal people.  Josh McDowell did a fantastic job of laying out the evidence, the rational reasons, for the Christian faith, and that book (and revisions since then) have been a huge help for so many people in defending their faith.

But this book didn't just need a bit of updating to release a fourth edition.  It needed far more than that.  The tagline attached to a lot of what I've seen about this is "Because the TRUTH of the Bible doesn't change, but its CRITICS do."

Life is a lot different than it was in the early 70s, and the criticism of the Bible and of believers has certainly changed as well.  So Josh -- and his son Sean -- set out to make this classic more relevant for today.

Josh talks about some of the changes in his audience forty years ago vs. today.  I doubt it would surprise too many folks that the idea of whether or not truth even exists is one of the biggest changes. 

That is why my host is interested in this book, and we talked about that.  He is convinced this book is going to help in reaching millennials.  I think he is right.  This book is significantly different -- lots of brand-new content and quite a bit of what was in the book has been significantly updated.

I have really enjoyed reading it, even though I find it challenging to read a pdf book.  I'm really looking forward to receiving the hardback that I bought, which shipped this morning and should arrive tomorrow!

I think this is something I will be going through with my kids.  Even though there are so many choices out there today that can help you to know why you believe and help you defend your faith, this book ranks up there among the very best.  If you are going to have one such book, this is the one to get.

I seriously think this is a book that everyone should have.  You still have a day left to pre-order, and if you do so, there are some bonuses available.  Check out ReadEvidence for more info on that.  And more videos and other information too!

Disclaimer:   I received this ebook for free .  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason {a Master Books review}

In the past couple of weeks, I have been reading a soon-to-be-released book from Master Books - Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason: Refuting Alleged Bible Contradictions.

Jason Lisle has done a fantastic job with this book.

It doesn't sound like fascinating reading.  The premise is that there is a 'definitive list' of 439 Bible contradictions that has been floating around the internet, and Lisle goes through to refute them all.

To me, it sounds like a long list, and something like reading the begats in the Bible -- you know, something that is probably important but just not something I truly want to do. 

I was wrong.

Lisle starts off with an introduction where he concisely explains some of the major logical fallacies that are present in so many of these biblical contradictions.  And then the individual chapters are organized so that each addresses one main type of contradiction.

I found that pretty overwhelming.  Contradiction after contradiction that are basically a variation on "this gospel writer says he healed a blind man, and the other gospel says there were two."  Since the first case doesn't say there is ONLY one, both of the statements could be true.  Just like when I'm asked if I have a son, I sometimes will say that, yes, I do.  When asked how many sons I have, I will say I have four.  Both statements are true.  It is also true that I have two sons, and true that I have three. 

I really liked seeing just how many of these contradictions are over such silly things.

The introduction alone is completely worth reading.  Even without reading on into the chapters with the actual contradictions, the few pages of the introduction give you plenty to chew on. 

Some of the responses are pretty straight-forward.  Others get a bit more involved, and those are definitely more interesting. 

One contradiction:  "How many men did David kill? Second Samuel 10:18 says 700, but 1 Chronicles 19:18 says 7,000."

Part of the response:
This is further supported by the choice of the Hebrew word harag translated “killed” or “slew.” This word also refers to the destruction of inanimate objects, such as the chariots themselves. (The word is used to describe the destruction of vines and trees in Psalm 78:47.) Even modern warfare terminology will refer to the destruction of a tank or a plane as a “kill,” regardless of how many people within are killed. Thus, to destroy 700 chariots, or chariot units, is 700 kills and could easily correspond to 7,000 individual deaths.
I found that really interesting.

This is a book I definitely recommend.  It is very readable, and while I certainly am not going to memorize all 439 of these, this does make it so that I feel fairly confident in talking to someone who is saying that the Bible can't be trusted because of all the contradictions.  I know I can answer some of these issues right off the bat... and I know I can find answers for pretty much anything someone throws my way.

Disclaimer:   I received this ebook for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let's Go Geography {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Geography is one area where I feel like I’ve missed the boat and not done nearly enough. At least with my younger two. The older ones spent a year studying various countries, and they spent a year studying each state in the US. But really, Richard and Trina have not done much.

So when Let’s Go Geography came along, I thought I could utilize this as a low-key, fun homeschool geography curriculum, even though both kids are well beyond the intended K-4th grade age range. Trina is in 6th grade, and Richard is in 8th.

Let's Go Geography

So far, this has been fabulous. We don’t do all of the activities, but we are taking a country each week and focusing on it. Actually, the first two weeks were spent on regions of the United States. Specifically, we studied the northeast US and Hawaii.

This program is year 1 of a planned 3 year curriculum, so each year has you learning about two US regions, and a bit more than two dozen countries from around the world. Each year, you cover a few countries in North America, a couple in South America, a few in Europe, a couple in Africa, a few in Asia and either Australia, New Zealand or Antarctica.

Over the course of three years, you will have covered a pretty good chunk of the world map, especially if you go by area. On each continent you are covering the largest countries, many of the middle-sized ones, and a few small ones too.

In addition to the US regions, we have studied Canada, Haiti and Nicaragua. I had hoped to get further, but Connor was home for a week before college starts, and Dad took a week off work. You know, life happened.

Completed map of Canada
The program consists of pdf files that include printable pages and clickable links. Each week, you learn some basic statistics and do some map work. You learn about (and color) the flag. You listen to some music, usually the national anthem. You have links to some great educational videos online, plus some text that helps you understand more about the geography and culture of that country.  Some great photos to help you remember some of the things you learned. There is a craft activity, a coloring page, and a notebooking page. 

That's a lot of information, and you can definitely pick and choose what appeals to you the most!

A screenshot of one of the Nicaragua videos!

Books about Haiti from the library

They also recommend checking your library for non-fiction books about the country. In addition to that, we’ve been grabbing videos and some fiction books as well.

We’ve also been scouting out recipes from the country, as food makes everything more fun. Especially dessert. And when we find out what the language is in that country, we go learn a few basic words. When a language duplicates, we’ll expand on what we have studied. The first time we encounter a language, we learn to say hello, goodbye, yes, no, please, thank you, and “Do you speak English?” The second time, we expand on that.

One thing I really love is that she has often taken a craft idea from online and adapted it to make it more applicable to K-4th grades. We’ve tended to go check out the original (the link is provided) and to work with that.

We haven’t been doing the coloring pages, but otherwise we really are doing most of the work provided.

A worksheet from one of the review weeks
Once you finish a couple of continents, there are review weeks.  I didn't expect much, but these review weeks are really great.  Of course, you have maps, flags, and activities to actually review all of the countries you covered for those continents.  You also cover some information about the continents as a whole. 

In addition, though, the review weeks are where you are introduced to things like latitude and longitude, hemispheres, etc.  I love that the geography terminology is formally introduced in these weeks.

My bottom line on Let's Go Geography?

This is a great program that doesn't suck up a whole lot of time, but does give your child a basic overview of around eighty countries over three years.  You can expand on it, as we have, to include things that are interesting or important to you.  Trina is working on her World Heritage badge for AHG, so that is why we added food, actual language study, and stories. 

Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Unauthorized {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Every so often, as part of the Homeschool Review Crew, we get the chance to review something that is such a huge hit in my house that we end up buying more.  Chara Games is one such vendor.  Last year, we reviewed Commissioned, and I had to go out and buy more copies for gifts.

This year, we've been playing Unauthorized, and you guessed it... I've already purchased another copy as a Christmas gift for my son.  I think that tells you what my bottom line is with this review.  The game is fabulous, and you should get a copy. The premise is that you are in an area with an underground church that the state is trying to stamp out.  Each game includes at least one pastor, at least one police officer, and at least four players who could be for the state or could be for the church... and their loyalties can change during the gameplay.

What a fantastic way to introduce the conflicts and tension of living out your faith in a place where Christianity can land you in jail, or lead to your execution.


Unauthorized is a game for 6-12 players.  The age on the box is 12+, but my 11-year-old was easily able to play.  Patrick (the guy behind this company) assured me that they are hearing about it working well with kids as young as 8.  I think with a bit of adaptation, that could be true.  I wouldn't want to do it with a big group of 8-year-olds, but a couple younger people in a group of mostly 12 and up -- that could absolutely work.

We pulled this out to play while college boy was home for a whole week.  That meant we had seven players for the first couple of games.  We also played it without Dad, with a total of six players.  And played it again.  And again.  And again.  And then we realized it was 2:30 in the morning and maybe we should get some sleep.

The next day, we played it a few times more.  And we tried playing two characters each, to get an idea of how it worked with 12 players.  That was fun too, but sometimes a bit hard to switch from one person to another.

I think you could say it was a hit here.

The basic game play:

Unauthorized is a card-based game, where you are dealt a character to play, some experience cards that influence your choices, and then in 30 minutes, you play out the scenario and either try to grow the church, or try to stamp it out, depending on what your cards tell you to do.

To start the game, you need to pull out the character cards, and grab the appropriate number of pastors (one for 6-9 players, two for 10-12 players) and police officers (one for 6-7 players, two for 8-12 players), and then shuffle the neutral role cards and pull out the appropriate number so there is one role card for each player.  All the unused role cards are returned to the box.  You shuffle the role cards, and deal one to each player.  A cool factor is that there are different photos on the role cards, usually a female on one side and a male on the other.  Each player can choose which side to have represent them.  We opted to let the police and pastor choose from either card, actually.

Each role -- teacher, musician, clerk, etc. -- has different abilities.  So right off the bat, you have some big variations in the game when playing with fewer than 12 people.  The combination of skills available in a game can change pretty dramatically.

Once everyone has a role, you deal experience cards.  The police officer is dealt seven cards that favor the state, the pastor is dealt seven cards that favor the church, and then you shuffle all the cards together so that all of the neutral players get a combination of different experiences.  (You add more cards to the deck if playing with 8-9 players, and even more cards if playing with 10-12 players.)

Your experience cards determine your loyalty.  If you have more state cards than church cards, you must play in a way that is loyal to the state.  If you have more church-friendly experiences than state-friendly ones, you must play in a way that is loyal to the church.  A tie goes to the state.  If you start out pretty even (3 of one, 4 of the other) you might find your loyalties switching back and forth throughout the game.  That doesn't even count the fact that there are wild cards, and with those YOU get to decide whether they are pro-church or pro-state.  

Once everyone is set up with their role and their experiences, the game actually starts.  You play four rounds, and in each of your turns, you have the opportunity to try to influence another player, learn about a player, or get out of jail.  Every other player may try to influence you or learn more about you.

One tricky part is you are never quite sure where anyone else stands -- except the pastor and the police officer.  You have some hints.  Each player has at least some of their experience laid out for everyone to see.  But if they have two state cards in front of them, do they have five church cards in their hand?  You don't know. 

The kids -- ages 11-20 -- and I loved this game.  The hardest part for us was playing someone who was really neutral -- 3 state cards, 3 church cards, and a wild card to start with (like the photo above), and then a lot of other players influencing us so on one turn you'd be pro-church and the next you'd be pro-state.  It was hard to actually act against the church when you could clearly see that you were likely to change back to being pro-church in the next round.

But that reflects reality, doesn't it?  When your experiences are pretty much all favoring one side or another, it is easier to act that way.  When you are waffling in the middle, neither hot nor cold, life isn't so easy to figure out and choices are harder.

Get the game.  It is inexpensive, pretty easy to learn, and every time you play is different.

Unauthorized {Chara Games Reviews}

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Random Stuff on a Friday

I have been severely neglecting my blog.  I know it.  I have all these ideas go through my head about things I could post about, but just don't find the time to put something together.

I remember I used to do a random stuff post.  And I know people who do some kind of random 5 weekly post.  I think I am going to try to do that whole random 5 thing every week, and we'll see if I can pull that off.

  1. Been busy trying to sort through a whole lot of stuff lately, and feeling a bit like Mrs. Incredible.  Why do we have so much junk?  Dale is taking some of the trashbags to work to put in the dumpster when they haven't filled it.  He left today with three bags and a box.  That feels good.
  2. Connor has been back to school for two weeks now.  I still need his schedule.  I'm not a helicopter mom / control freak, but I do like knowing what classes he is in.  I want to be able to look at the schedule and realize what class he is in, and pray for that teacher and pray for the kids, um, I mean adults, in class with him.  Maybe if I send him a link to this blog post, he'll get the hint and get me a copy of it.
  3. Watching the coverage of the hurricane has me thinking about how prepared I am -- or am not -- for the junk of life.  I definitely need to get some things together and organized again, so that I know if we get hit with blizzards this winter and can't get out, that we are good.  I also keep thinking I should blog about that.
  4. School with my at-home kids is interesting.  Two in high school, two in middle school.  It is weird thinking in terms of not having elementary kids anymore, though Trina (6th) can still be called an elementary student.  Being honest though, she really has turned into a middle schooler.
  5. A picture I found, while sorting junk (see #1) -- just because.

Now, let's see if I can do this again next week.