Monday, August 20, 2018

Student-Teacher Conferences: Motivation Monday

This post does contain one affiliate link -- to

Welcome to Day One of the 5 Days of Back to (Home)School Encouragement! Blog Hop!  I'm getting a late start, as I had a long weekend.  I plan to post a bit about THAT on Thursday.

Today, though, the topic is motivation, and sometimes it really is hard to find any of that, especially for high school.  This seemed like a perfect time to share about something that really did change our schooling.

The history:

A few years back, probably eight years, this household was gearing up to be starting high school.  That was a scary time, as somehow it all seemed so much more real and important than everything we had done before.  It is and it isn't.  But that isn't the point of this post.

A comment by William about learning modern history led to a return to Sonlight!
I had kids who were 13, 12, 10, 6 and 4.  Eighth grade, sixth grade, fourth grade, first grade and preschool.

One thing I really felt I needed to do was to get some sort of high school plan into place.  Connor's input was important to me, but every time I tried to have a conversation with him about high school, I'd have a younger sibling interrupting.  Out of total frustration, and a quick, "God, help me make this conversation happen!" I announced that the following weekend, Connor & I were going grocery shopping ALONE and that we'd be going to Starbucks as well, to sit and have a discussion about high school.  Dale could hold down the fort without us.

That was the most brilliant high school homeschool decision I ever made.

Richard really wanted this.. and we'll be joining CAP as a result
What happened that day was really great.  Connor and I had an uninterrupted conversation about his plans and thoughts.  We kept it mostly low-tech, with notepads and pens, and occasionally looking something up on the laptop.  I was able to communicate my requirements for high school graduation, and he was able to communicate what he wanted to learn about, and maybe a hint of what he wanted to do in life.

I thought I was just doing a one-time thing, having a conversation with my teen away from everyone.

Instead, I was beginning a tradition. 

Since then, generally twice a year (January and sometime over the summer), it is Student-Teacher Conference time.  We pick somewhere to go and get some food or a drink, and I typically go from oldest to youngest, doing one-on-one time with each high school student, or soon-to-be high school student (mid-8th grade is really the "official" start).  We've been to Starbucks, Subway, the Rush Cafe, Cold Stone Creamery, Village Inn, Dickie's Barbecue... and I'm sure I've forgotten some.

"Architecture would be interesting."  SchoolhouseTeachers to the rescue!
Basically, we go somewhere we wouldn't normally go, at an off time when they aren't usually busy, and we hang out for a couple of hours.  We go over what courses are already on their transcript, or are in progress.  I have a map of the graduation requirements for Brinkman Academy.  We talk about what we need to do in the coming two semesters, and some tentative ideas for the time after the next year.  

The biggest thing is we talk electives.  And I hear things like, "I'd love an apologetics class."  Or, "Could I get some serious audiobooks?"  Or "I really would love some animation and film courses."  Or, "I want to study aviation."

What do my kids think?  

Thomas wants to go into film.  That meant I jumped at this course!
They think this is great too.  They like knowing what is expected of them, and they like being able to help figure out what they do -- or do not -- have time to add in.  They like the one-on-one time, focused on what is best for them, and not necessarily having to be doing the compromise thing.

When I asked them about Student-Teacher Conferences and their thoughts, every single one of them (both graduates, both high school students, and the 7th grader) was enthusiastic.  I heard words like productive and beneficial.  I heard helpful from almost everyone.  They all said it is something we have to continue to do.

I start with my junior or senior so that we can hammer out a schedule for him.  What does he need in the next one or two years?  Then I do this with my sophomore or freshman.  What courses is he taking with his big brother?  What else do we need to figure out?  On the years I have an eighth grader, I start doing this with him (next year, it will be with HER).  That one tends to be a lot more big picture, plus a lot of ideas for electives.

Why did I choose this as a post for Motivation Monday?  Three things, I think:
  1. These Student-Teacher Conferences inspire me tremendously.
  2. My kids getting serious input into school motivates them a lot too.
  3. Maybe this isn't what your homeschool needs, but you can stumble into something that is a game-changer for you.

Go check out some of the other posts in this hop!  There is a linky at the bottom, and here are a few of the folks who planned to be posting:

Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Margaret @ Creative Madness Mama
Marla @ Jump Into Genius
Meredith @ Powerline Productions: Being World Changers/Raising World Changers
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Missica @ Through The Open Window
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Crew is doing a Blog Hop next week!

And I am actually participating.

Shhh.  Don't tell anyone.  Wait... no, tell everyone.  The more the merrier!

I have challenged myself to actually post in each and every one of these.  We'll see how that goes.

Some thoughts I've had about what to write about next week --
  • Incorporating 4H into our homeschool, from the perspective of a family just finishing up their first year in 4H.
  • Our semi-annual Student-Teacher conferences, and why I think this is the single best thing we have done for homeschooling high school.
  • How I cannot imagine homeschooling without the Crew.
  • How excited I am to be back to Sonlight, with all my homeschoolers doing history together.
  • How I incorporate my kids' interests into my school requirements.
  • Things I'd tell myself, if I thought 15-year-ago-me would listen.
  • How to narrow things down and not try to do it all.

Okay, that is more than five posts, and I haven't completely figured out how they work into the 5 Days of Homeschool Encouragement themes above.  I might write something completely different.  You can check back here to see!

There are a bunch of people participating.  Check 'em out!

Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Angie @ Run Ran Family Adventures & Learning
Annette @ A Net in Time
Ashley @ Gift of Chaos
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Christine @ Christine Howard

Dawn @ Schoolin' Swag
Felicia @ Homeschool 4 Life
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Jennifer @ Dear Homeschooler
Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Karen @ Tots and Me...Growing Up Together
Kellyann @ Walking Home ...
Kimberley @ Vintage Blue Suitcase
Kristen @ A Mom's Quest to Teach
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Linda @ Apron Strings & other things

Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Marla @ Jump Into Genius
Meredith @ Powerline Productions: Being World Changers/Raising World Changers
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Missica @ Through The Open Window
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling

Nicole @ Bless Their Hearts Mom
Patti @ Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy
Rebekah @ There Will Be a $5 Charge For Whining
Rodna @ Training Children up for Christ
Stacy @ A Homemakers Heart
Wendy @ Life at Rossmont
Yvie @ Gypsy Road

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fossils, Dinosuars and Cave Men {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Northwest Treasures

If I were to go back a dozen or more years, it never would occur to me that I'd be excited to be reviewing a geology class from Northwest Treasures, or that I'd willingly spend a year working through a program like Fossils, Dinosaurs and Cave Men: A Biblical View.  (Well, half a year.  We had already spent half a year on another geology course.)

Life often doesn't work out like you'd expect.

I grew up in a family where conversations about science were a fairly regular event.  My mom was finishing up her master's degree in entomology when I was born, so she was always coming in to our classrooms in elementary school with her insect collections and doing presentations on butterflies or insects in general.

I loved science, particularly biology.  My favorite class in college was an upper level biology symposium on bioethics.  Once I started homeschooling, I discovered I really enjoyed physics as well, and chemistry has always intrigued me.  But things like astronomy and geology?  Meh.  I mean, checking out rock formations at Yellowstone and other national parks was okay, but studying it?  No, thank you.  My husband had different science interests -- astronomy, electronics, aviation.

Imagine my shock at having some children who do not particularly like science.  Getting them through things like high school biology is HARD.  William would much rather spend his time with history.

Last summer, I attended a homeschool convention and as part of my job for the Homeschool Review Crew, I was combing the vendor hall and talking to people at the booths.  Northwest Treasures already had a relationship with The Old Schoolhouse, as they provide a course for (one of many reasons to check out that site!)  I have thought their materials looked good, but I wasn't particularly interested in using them.

A conversation with Patrick and Vicki Nurre, however, changed my mind.  Specifically, the idea of a high school science course that is a bit more historical in nature had a strong appeal.  I walked out of convention having purchased Bedrock Geology, the "heart" of the Northwest Treasures Curriculum Project.  That course has been fabulous, and both William and Thomas worked through it this spring.

When I saw that Northwest Treasures now had Online Courses, I hoped we could get a Crew Review together of these offerings.  There is a short session called Taking the Mystery Out of Geology, which I'd highly recommend to anyone thinking about attacking geology in their homeschool as it does give a nice overview of their approach.  There are also two longer courses:  Dinosaurs and the Bible, and
Geology and Apologetics.  Go read the reviews of these!

But back to what I had the privilege of reviewing.  We received the Fossils, Dinosaurs and Cave Men Kit, which is intended for grades 8-12.  It includes the book of the same name, and it includes a whole lot of fossil specimens.  And they are pretty neat.  That all comes in a handy box/carrying case, which is really nice for keeping things together.

We pulled out all the specimens to take this photo

The course includes eleven lessons, plus an appendix on fossil anomalies that we plan to treat as a lesson as well.  Most lessons can be completed in a week, though our plan is to add an extra week for some of the activities.

The activities in this course are more academic than hands on.  You do get a chance to check out the great fossil specimens.

But you also have some activities that involve a fair amount of research and reading.  So we stretched Lesson 4 out over two weeks, for instance.  One week to work through the chapter and do the activities involving vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils, and another to research the geologic time table and read articles about it.  We are probably going to be stretching lessons 6, 8, 9 and 10 out.  That gives us roughly 17 weeks of coursework, assuming we don't change anything up when we actually get to it!

Each lesson includes reading in the text, most have an activity, and all have quizzes.  There is also a comprehensive exam.  The suggestion is to study the vocabulary and read the text on day one, to spend days 2-3 re-reading and note taking and doing the activities, and to spend days 4-6 finishing up activities, reviewing and taking the quiz.

Bedrock Geology had us doing a lot of more hands-on things using materials like Rice Krispies, sand, or plaster of Paris.

Hands-on for the Fossils, Dinosaurs and Cave Men mostly involves getting a good look at the specimens in the kit.  In the photos here, they are doing that for Lesson 2.  You can see some really neat fossils are included!

(The image in the book is the first page of Lesson 3.)

They are supposed to be taking notes on what they are observing, but both kids insisted I get the photos taken before they actually started writing.  Apparently, I'm distracting when I have a camera.  Who would have thought that me saying "Hold it right there a second, oh, move a little to the left so I can see the shell in the magnifying glass, good.  Stay still." would keep them from learning?

So what do we think?

I love that we are able to complete a science course that isn't quite as intense, yet still contains a whole lot of information -- and solid information.  While I wouldn't consider Fossils to be a lab science for transcript purposes, I do think Bedrock Geology was.

The text is interesting to read -- we do it as a read-aloud first, and then the kids follow-up on their own when they go more in-depth and work through it a second time.  There are lots of great images.  I love that they include specifics on the foundation of modern geology, including dating for the various periods.

This is from a young-earth perspective, however, so they also point out what they believe is wrong with modern geology when their interpretation differs.  Most of that happens in a respectful manner that I appreciate.  I had hoped to get a bit further in the course before writing this review, as I was particularly interested in getting through Lessons 5-7, on the geologic time table, the geologic column, and the main chapter on dinosaurs.  We're almost there.

I skimmed ahead a bit, and I do like how it is all presented, and I believe the kids will too.

All three (considering William's opinions on Bedrock Geology here too!) boys have really enjoyed the Northwest Treasures courses.  I would love to continue with the other titles in their high school curriculum:  Volcanoes, Volcanic Rocks and Earthquakes, and Rocks and Minerals, The Stuff of the Earth.

The specimens included are amazing and fun.  All kinds of things are included from sea urchins and wood, to shark's teeth and dinosaur bones, to neolithic stone tools.  We aren't to the activity where we look at the tools yet.

Northwest Treasures also has materials for younger ages, including Geology for Kids, which is meant for middle school ages.  I loved Michele's review of this course.  It sounds like a lot of fun!

Thomas had asked to do another semester of Geology, so obviously he likes the material.  The kids think the material is presented in a way that is engaging, mostly, and that Mr. Nurre makes is easy to understand.

I would recommend at least trying out the Taking the Mystery Out of Geology session online!

Online Geology Classes{Northwest Treasures Reviews}
Check them out on social media:

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Memorization Study Bible {a Master Books review}

I keep trying to do something so that we memorize more scripture as a family.  There are a lot of reasons I'm not always usually as successful as I'd like.

The Memorization Study Bible, available through Master Books, has a new approach for me.  Basically, this is the text of the New Testament, arranged with a single phrase per line, in a way that will help you to chunk the text for easier memorization.

I love that.

Another part I really love is that in the introductions to each Bible book, in addition to the usual information like who wrote the book, approximately when, and what the book is about, you also have information on how many chapters and verses are in that book.

Romans, for instance, has 16 chapters and 433 verses.  So if you could pull off memorizing 5 verses a week, it would take a year and eight months to memorize the book.  That tells me this isn't where I'd want to start.

We had been working on Romans 8, though, and just for an idea as to how this is set up, that ends as follows:

38 For I am persuaded, 4
that neither death, 3
nor life, 2
nor angels, 2
nor principalities, 2
nor powers, 2
nor things present, 3
nor things to come, 4
39 Nor height, 2
nor depth, 2
nor any other creature, 4
shall be able to separate us 6
from the love of God, 5
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 7

There are a number of suggestions for memorization given in the introductory materials, and that does talk about all those numbers.  At the end, you have a total of seven appendices which give you some suggestions for passages to memorize (Seven Short Scriptures, Sin to Salvation in Ten Verses, Popular New Testament Chapters, important New Testament Verses) and give information about memorization.

I really appreciated the appendix about popular New Testament chapters. 

This is a fantastic resource, and I am accomplishing at least some memorization by using it.  I do play to get my kids involved too, once we get back to school.

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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

NIV Wonders of Creation Holy Bible {a BookLook Blogger review}

When I saw the NIV Wonders of Creation Holy Bible I knew I had to get it.  Coloring pages and a NIV Bible?  My daughter was going to love it!

The publisher's describe it like this:
The NIV Wonders of Creation Holy Bible explores the wonders of our created world though detailed black-and-white illustrations—each one ready to be filled with the hues of your imagination. From amazing Eden-esque gardens to the creatures God made, this Bible features over 50 ready-to-color pages alongside the full text of the New International Version (NIV) translation. 
I was absolutely correct.  Trina loves it.

This is a hardcover book, and the coloring pages are the primary feature to it.  Trina mostly has used colored pencils for coloring, as that is what she prefers.  This one is her favorite, though she isn't quite done.

She tried using markers as well, just to see how that worked.  I asked her if they bled through, and she said that "they work just fine as long as you don't do anything stupid like hold a marker on the page for a long time."

She loves the variety of pictures included, and verses that are included on so many of them.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, April 30, 2018

Corrie ten Boom {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

We have been reading the Christian Heroes: Then & Now series for a lot of years in our home. Janet & Geoff Benge write these biographies in a compelling way for young (and not-so-young) readers, and we love going through them. Corrie ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den is our most recent title, and I was thrilled to receive the Study Guide for this review.

William, my high school senior, has been studying 20th Century History this year, and one of the books he was assigned to read was The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. It was during that time that this review for YWAM Publishing  came up. There are so many great people that we could study, but I really wanted to have everyone involved in learning about Corrie.

We own this book as both a paperback and an audiobook, so we chose to listen to it. Initially, we would listen to one chapter a day and answer the questions in the study guide. It didn’t take too long before everyone was begging for “one more chapter, Mom” and I was happy to comply.

Each chapter has six questions. The first four are fairly straightforward and we didn’t always use all of them. One is a vocabulary question, one is a fact-based question, and two are basic reading comprehension. The final two questions are what we usually focused on. Chapter Three, for instance, had two questions that really generated incredible conversation:

5. Corrie told the Gestapo officer collecting the radios that they had only one at the Beje. Do you think she was justified in telling a lie? Why or why not?
6. Betsie prayed for the German bomber pilots. Do you think your own reaction would have been more similar to Betsie’s or Corrie’s? Use examples from your own life to support your answer.

The study guide contains more than just questions for each chapter. We also discussed some of the questions they suggest for essays, though I did not assign any writing. There are creative writing suggestions, project suggestions, and more. There are a bunch of mapping activities, and many great suggestions for further research. If I wasn’t trying to wrap up the year with my soon-to-be-graduate, we would undoubtedly have dug into some more of those activities.

One thing we did was to find other resources suggested in the guide. We watched The Hiding Place and Return to the Hiding Place, and we watched a travel documentary about Holland. We read Number the Stars and are about to start When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. We also bought tulips. Even my boys appreciated those.

Richard, my 14-year-old, commented to me this evening in the car about how much he enjoys the series. “They always give a lot of information, so you truly learn about the real people, but they keep the action going. These books are always paced so well, so you don’t lose interest.”

One thing I have always noted is that they do a very good job of ending chapters so that you are eager to find out what happens next.

Trina, age 12, told me that Corrie ten Boom is now her second favorite Heroes book. Her favorite is Lilian Trasher. Richard was quick to point out that his favorite is Nate Saint.

What I truly love about these stories is that they give us a shared experience in learning about some really amazing people. We learn about challenges that Corrie faced, we learn about the amazing people in her life (her father and sister especially) and how they influenced who she became. We see her struggles and we see how God works through her.

It is pretty incredible just how often we end up in situations where we can say something like, “Isn’t this just like what happened to Ida Scudder?” and we all are reminded of how she would go ahead and start acting on what God had told her to do and to let the money or other details work themselves out.

We’ve loved these books so much that we subscribed to YWAM’s book of the month club. Every month, we get an audiobook from their Christian Heroes series, and also an audiobook from the Heroes of History series. Just listening to the book is great, but the study guide does add a lot to the experience.

The other thing I love about these books is that I end up learning about people I know – and lots of people I had never heard of. I wasn’t brought up learning about missionaries. And all of my kids (ages 12 to 21) enjoy listening.

Check out what Crew Members had to say about the books they reviewed. CS Lewis and Billy Graham were the two most common and are ones that I am wanting to do soon.

Christian Heroes, Heroes of History & Study Guides {YWAM Publishing  Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Music Appreciation {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Recently, we have had the opportunity to work with an incredible brand-new product from Memoria Press.  Something that I have really wanted to do, but haven't been at all consistent with.  Music Appreciation I is simply terrific.

This program is intended for grades 3-5, according to Memoria Press, but it has worked quite well with my 6th and 8th graders.

I grew up with a lot of music.  I played piano for years, played viola, sang in multiple choirs, and taught myself a bit about violin and cello.  This was always something I wanted to pass along, but somehow it just hasn't happened.

So working through this course was something I was excited about.

Music Appreciation I Set

What you get for Music Appreciation I is a book and two audio CDs.  On the website, there is a link to a YouTube playlist of the songs covered in this course.  That playlist is wonderful just to listen to independent of actually working on the course.

I'm listening to the list right now, as I write this review.  This always helps to clear my head and regulate my breathing.  I need to get more classical music in my life again.

Anyway, back to the course!

The course confused me at first, as there isn't a really straightforward description of how to use it.  So I started at the beginning, and we have come up with something that works for us.

Each lesson has seven sections, and they follow the same basic plan each time.  Some lessons focus more on one section than on another.  We go through an entire lesson in one day.  The sections are numbered, and each lesson has all of the below sections, but the order does vary.  Chapter 6 is the one we are on, so I'll use it to describe the lesson:
  1. Listen:  we watch the YouTube video of the piece that is focused on for this lesson, such as Für Elise.  The video is around 3:30.  Most of the pieces are ones that my kids have heard before, but a few are ones they aren't terribly familiar with.  
  2. A Little History: this section gives some information about the composer and/or the time period in which it was written.  We read this aloud and discuss as we go. 
  3. Musical Concept: this section talks about some aspect of music itself.  In this lesson, we learn about the 12 musical notes and their names.  There are seven tracks on the included CD that show things like scales and chords, with text to read in between the example tracks.
  4. About the Piece: this gets into some specific background on the piece of music itself, like just who was Elise?  We also learn that this is a bagatelle, and we learn what makes up a bagatelle.  This part has another three tracks on the CD that give a simplified version of the A, B, and C sections of this bagatelle.  We learn that a rondo is arranged as ABACA.  
  5. Facts to remember: we read through these brief notes that summarize the lesson.
  6. Listen again: we pull up the YouTube video again (and again, usually) and watch and listen, looking for the specific things we have been learning about.
We follow this up by listening to the piece from other sources throughout the week.

There are also tests that cover the material for four chapters at a time.  We have not utilized these as much as we probably ought to.  I do give them an oral quiz though.

Some chapters have a section for Music History, which often discusses the musical period we are now in.  Some chapters have more than one section for Musical Concept, for instance.  In general, each lesson starts with a Listen section, and ends with Facts to Remember and Listen Again.  There are other history and music theory sections in between.

We are loving this.  The material is presented pretty simply.  It is not overwhelming, nor is it difficult.  It also isn't too easy to be doing with older students.  There are some fantastic photos included as well.

The book goes roughly chronologically, starting with Handel, working through Vivaldi, Bach, before spending a pretty good amount of time on Mozart (both Wolfgang and his father) and Beethoven.  Then you move on to Tchikovsky, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, Wagner, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Dukas, Ravel, Copeland and Gershwin.  There is also a Christmas lesson, and you end with The Star-Spangled Banner.

Obviously, we're only on lesson 6 of 26, but in looking the list over, I only spotted one piece that I wasn't already familiar with.  There is a pretty good mix of composers, and some truly excellent music included here.

I dearly hope they are going to be coming out with Music Appreciation Book Two soon!

Meanwhile, you can go check the Crew reviews to see some of the other products the Crew was able to review, like the brand-new Traditional Spelling program.

Spelling, Music Appreciation & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Homeschool Diploma {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Two years ago, as I was preparing to graduate my oldest son from our homeschool, we were blessed to have the opportunity to review diplomas from Homeschool Diploma.  After seeing the quality, and hearing about their other products, we purchased a cap and gown for Connor as well.

Now as I'm preparing to graduate my second son, we again had the chance to review products from this fantastic company.  This time, the Crew received the Standard Diploma, with an option to add a Cap, Gown and Tassel.  We wanted to customize things a bit more, so we opted for the Personalized Diploma instead.

I talked in my previous review about how easy the ordering process is, even if you don't think you know what you are doing.  Just follow along, and it keeps asking you questions.  Make sure you read everything so you do end up with what you want.   One thing I noticed this time is that they have changed something so that dating the diploma is more obvious.  You have the option of choosing an exact date, or a month and year.  And you can go all the way back to 2000, so you can get a diploma for those kids who already graduated too!

For Connor, we used one of the suggested Bible verses on his diploma.  For William, we ended up using a quote from Winston Churchill instead.  A custom quote costs a couple dollars extra, but this is what makes this diploma absolutely perfect for him.  The quote was also the big reason that we went for a Personalized Diploma.

Photo of William's diploma, with the personalized quote.
"Success is not final, Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."  Winston Churchill

Once you get the order placed, the wait isn't too long.  I had mine in about a week, and there is an option to rush delivery too.

One thing I really love is how well presented this all is.  The diploma is printed on pretty thick paper, and it is all put together in the diploma cover, which holds it very securely.  As you can see in the photo here, you even get instructions on how to sign the diploma.

Which reminds me that I don't think we ever signed Connor's.  Hmmm.

This is all so much better quality than my high school diploma was!

The cap and gown is wonderful too.  You measure based on their height, in the shoes they will wear for the graduation ceremony.  The smallest gown on the page is for students who are 4'9", and gowns go up to 6'8".  Fortunately, we didn't have to go quite that high.  This time, we got the gown for people who are 6'3" to 6'5".  

Maybe, just maybe, I should have gone with the smaller size, but this is Thomas trying it on, and he doesn't graduate for another two years.  And he is still growing.

The matte finish looks great, though they also have a shiny finish option.  We liked how sturdy this looked.

Then it is a question of figuring out just how to present this to your child.

For Connor, we ended up having a ceremony one Sunday afternoon.  Our church allowed us to do it there, and we ended up with multiple people speaking, and the elders prayed for all of the graduates (two other graduates were in attendance).  It ended up more formal than we are likely to do for William.

Right now, we're thinking that we'll do a lower key version of that for him, though we might need to do a Saturday event instead.  Do a slide show, get a couple of people to say a few words, present the diploma, and have the elders and others pray over him, and any other graduates present.

It should be fun.

Can I just say that I do think it is hugely important to do something to acknowledge these milestones.  And I think it is as much for Mom as it is for the graduate.  Doing something publicly, in front of so many friends and family, really mattered to me far more than I expected it to.  There was just something more "real" about having our little ceremony and telling people that he was done with high school.  I didn't know I needed that closure, but I do think it made a difference for me, and I also know that there were many people at church and elsewhere who loved having the opportunity to cheer Connor on.  I expect the same for William.

It doesn't have to be a big production, but it can be too.  I just have come to realize that these rites of passage are important to more than just the person passing from one stage to the next.  

Other Crew members reviewed their 8th Grade Diplomas or their adorable Kindergarten Cap, Gown, Tassel and Diploma.  Go, check that out!

Kindergarten Graduation and Junior High Diploma for your Homeschool  {Homeschool Diploma Reviews}

You can also find them at:

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 26, 2018

If You Were Me and Lived in... {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

It has been a few years since I was first introduced to the Cultural Series being put out by Carole P. Roman.  The books were fun and quick, and I really enjoyed using them with my children.  Since that time, the Crew has been blessed to work with Carole a few more times, and she has expanded her offerings to include a few more types of books.  My favorites are still the If You Were Me and Lived in... titles though.

The Cultural Series is intended for younger children than mine, as Carole suggests it for ages 4-9.   Trina has been working on her Ancestor Detector badge for American Heritage Girls, and one thing they are required to do for this badge at her level is to learn about the native country of your relatives, doing a number of things such as learning about native dress, foods, traditions, etc.

There are a couple dozen books in this series at this point, so we couldn't find a book for all of the native countries of my ancestors.  However, we were able to cover a few.  I'm going to talk about a few different aspects as I cover the four books we used, but know that if I tell you that they discuss the kind of money used in one of the books, that also applies to the others.  

If You Were Me and Lived in... Germany is a great one for us.  She has German heritage on both sides of the family.   These books are all set up basically the same way.  You are introduced to a child from the country, and some of the things in his (the child in the Germany book is a boy) life.  So you see a map of the country and learn that Germany is in northeastern Europe.  You learn that Berlin is the capitol, and that 1/3 of it is natural areas - parks, lakes, etc.  I told her about how amazing it was to visit Berlin some thirty years ago, as we immediately felt right at home with all of the lakes (I lived in Minnesota at the time). 

If You Were Me book for France, along with her Yums box
If You Were Me and Lived in... France is the one she was most excited about.  The earliest of her ancestors to immigrate to the New World came from France to Canada in the mid 1600s.   The food aspect of the France book stood out to Trina.  We subscribe to Universal Yums, which sends a box of snacks from various countries.  For her birthday last month, Trina got a box from France, which I presented with this book.  Every time the book mentioned food, Trina pulled out her box to see if they had sometime that related.  Trina was thrilled to try some of what she was reading about.

I found it interesting that the France book (and Norway too) had much larger print, and far fewer words than the Germany book.

If You Were Me and Lived in... Poland was the one I was most excited to receive. Back when the Iron Curtain was beginning to have some holes, I spent two weeks in Europe.  My roommate and I went to Germany and to Poland.  The book throws in a lot of language for the countries being studied, including pronunciation helps.  In reading through the book, you cover words for family members (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa) and food, plus words for place names.  You learn about some important people or events, such as Chopin and Copernicus, and why there are so many mermaid statues in Warsaw.

If You Were Me and Lived in... Norway is the final book we can use for these studies, and that means she can learn about all of the major countries on her dad's side.  In reading through the book, you learn some common boys and girls names, like Magnus and Birgitte.  You learn about popular activities and places to visit.  You also learn about holidays, such as Syttend Mai, the celebration of Norway's independence.

I do think these are a fabulous introduction to various countries, and for older students, it is a great jumping-off point.  You could go on to learn the background behind Dzien Dziecka (Children's Day), or you could research Gustave Eiffel.  You could listen to some of the foreign words used in the book, or try to recreate the meal that is described.

The book itself might be totally appropriate for those 4-9 year olds, but there are so many tantalizing little hints of bigger things that I think it is perfect for older kids as well.

Now, if Carole would just get working on a book for Sweden, Wales, and Lithuania, we could polish off my side of the family too! 

Go see what the Crew had to say about Carole's many different books.  Another series I really enjoy is her historical titles which are intended for a slightly older audience (ages 8-15) and cover things such as If You Were Me and Lived in... Viking Europe, which seems like a perfect follow-up to learning about Norway.

Carole P. Roman books and collections {Carole P. Roman Reviews}

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Archery at 4-H

Today is a day of shooting practice for 4-H. 

A great friend not only took my three youngest kids there, but she has sent photos our way too.




Monday, February 19, 2018

Answers for Homeschooling {a Master Books review}

I've been doing some reviewing for Master Books lately, and I have to admit I wasn't really all that interested in the latest option for review.  Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask by Israel Wayne sounds like it could be a great book, but I've been at this homeschooling gig for quite a long time now.  I didn't think this was something that I really needed.

And then I ended up spending the weekend in the hospital with my 19-year-old.

He spent a lot of that time sleeping.  At some point, I realized that I had put this ebook into Dropbox and I could access it on my iPad.  That meant I did have something to read.  And something that was relatively easy to read in the constant-interruptions atmosphere of a hospital room.

I've read a lot about homeschooling over the past two decades.  And part of me was definitely asking, "WHY do we need yet another book about homeschooling?"

I was amused to see that question addressed in the introduction, especially as I found myself agreeing with the answer.  So many of the people putting themselves forward as experts in homeschooling have not been at it all that long, and they just don't have the first-hand history.  I find myself being pretty cynical with anyone telling me they have the answers when they started homeschooling two years ago and their oldest child is 10.

I cannot level that criticism at Israel Wayne.  He was homeschooled himself, and I believe he wrote that his oldest is 17 now, and he and his wife have homeschooled all along.  That means while I do have two or maybe three children older than his (who I have homeschooled all along), he is pretty close.  And he was homeschooled, so he can see the student side in a way I can't.

Now, I'm not saying I had any real aha moments with this book, but I did find it encouraging.  There are some homeschooling issues I've struggled with lately, and it almost felt like he had listened to my arguments in my head and wrote them out far more concisely than I've managed to do.

Chapter 11: What If I Don’t Have Enough Patience? was one I particularly loved.  Every time someone tells me that they don't have enough patience to homeschool, I find myself mentally screaming, "Homeschooling GAVE me patience!"  His answer was similar.  Minus the screaming part.

I think this book is great for those who are pretty new to homeschooling, in need of a veteran's perspective.  I think this book is also very good for those of us who have been at this for a long time. 

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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Remnant Trilogy {a Master Books review}

Recently, I've had the opportunity to read the first two books in The Remnant Trilogy by Tim Chaffey and K. Marie Adams.  What fun!

The basic idea of the series is to present an obviously fictional account of Noah -- yes, that Noah -- from before the flood.  Since we learn practically nothing about his first years in the Bible, there is not a whole lot to go on.

In general, I worry about this whole idea, especially with biblical characters.  This story does work for me though.

The first book is Noah: Man of Destiny.  The book is described as a coming--of-age story, and that is a great description.  Noah is approaching the age where he is considered to be a man, his Rovay, which happens at age 40.

He works with his family, farming, but sneaks off to do various woodworking activities every chance he gets.  He ends up getting the opportunity to go learn the craft he loves, but that means leaving home and learning a lot more about the world.

The Bible does tell us that Noah was righteous.  The Bible also tells us that the world was pretty wicked in those days.

I don't know about you, but I don't often stop and think about those two facts together.

What would it have been like for a young Noah to make his way as he is trying to find his place in the world?

That's basically what this book addresses, with an emphasis on how this could be how things were.

Noah: Man of Resolve is the second book in the trilogy.  Picking up where Man of Destiny leaves off, we get to continue as the world just gets even more wicked, and Noah finds himself struggling with his faith.

This book continues to bring out some thought-provoking concepts about living right in an environment of evil.

The coolest part is at the end, where there is a final section talking about what we do know from the Bible and why the authors made the choices they did. Such as why thy chose 40 as when you would cross from childhood to adulthood.

Fascinating stuff.

I do look forward to Book 3.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Melody of the Soul {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I'm excited to talk a bit about a book I read this weekend.  The Melody of the Soul by Liz Tolsma was a fantastic look into life in Prague during World War II.

I haven't been doing all that many book reviews lately, but with as much as I loved Daisies are Forever, I knew I had to get in on this one too.

Fortunately, this review is easier to write than that one was.  There are some similarities--
  • The book is set in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • The characters are far more complex than just their nationality would indicate
  • Tolsma clearly strives for historical accuracy

Let's start with a description of the book from the publisher:
Anna has one chance for survival-and it lies in the hands of her mortal enemy.

It's 1943 and Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian living in Prague, has lost nearly everything. Most of her family has been deported, and the Nazi occupation ended her career as a concert violinist. Now Anna is left to care for her grandmother, and she'll do anything to keep her safe-a job that gets much harder when Nazi officer Horst Engel is quartered in the flat below them.

Though musical instruments have been declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to play the violin. But Horst, dissatisfied with German ideology, enjoys her soothing music. When Anna and her grandmother face deportation, Horst risks everything to protect them.

Anna finds herself falling in love with the handsome officer and his brave heart. But what he reveals might stop the music forever.

melody pin1

What did I think?

I did not want to put this down!  I had to, but I didn't want to!

The characters are all so fascinating.  Of the characters who have more than a couple lines of dialogue, all but one are wonderfully complex.  The main "bad guy" is pretty thoroughly bad, with virtually nothing at all that ever makes you think "maybe he isn't completely awful."

Everyone else, though, seems like a real person, where you see a mix of good and bad, faults and virtues, and real life experiences coloring how they react to the events of the story.  Reading through the book, there were points I wanted to slap some sense into even the most likeable characters. 

The best part of the book for me was in the final pages, where Tolsma talked about how her story lined up with actual history.  Especially the idea of music being a savior.  That bit really hit home.  I absolutely have had points in life where I turn to music when I should be turning to Christ.

That part left me thinking.

Her books always leave me thinking.

Check out this fun giveaway!

Travel back in time to 1943 and meet Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian and concert violinist whose career is ended because of Nazi occupation in Prague. Don't miss the new historical novel, The Melody of the Soul, by Liz Tolsma. Though musical instruments have been declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to play the violin. But Officer Horst Engel, quartered in Anna's flat and dissatisfied with German ideology, enjoys her soothing music. When Anna and her grandmother face deportation, Horst risks everything to protect them.

Join Liz Tolsma and other bookworms for a Facebook Live event on February 6, plus enter to win Liz's prize pack giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 6. The winner will be announced at Liz's Facebook Live Party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Liz and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word-tell your friends about the giveaway and Facebook Live party via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 6th!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lit-Based Education: How We Homeschool

Time for week 2 in this year's Virtual Homeschool Fair hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. 

This week we are all talking about Our Method of Homeschooling. I've called our homeschool method a lot of different things, but Lit-Based Education seems to sum it up best.

When we started seriously looking at homeschooling, we attended a small homeschooling fair event in Colorado Springs.  That was early in 1999, and until we went there, I had no idea that there actually was curriculum designed for homeschoolers.  I assumed that in order to provide the type of education I wanted, I was going to be creating it all pretty much from scratch.

At that event, there was a booth for Sonlight, run by a family that included Mom, Dad and a boy of about nine.  I think there was a younger child there too, but those were the three who were actually talking with those of us who were browsing at the fair.  I was pushing Connor in a stroller, and Dale was wearing William in a Snugli.  Both parents were busy with "real" customers when we got to the table, and they had Basic 3 (now called something like Core D) laid out on the table.  I was mentally oohing and aahing over all the amazing books when the 9-year-old asked me if I had any questions.  So, I asked him how this Sonlight thing worked.

He proceeded to show me the Instructor Guide, talk about all the amazing literature, point out how easy it was for his mom to teach, and generally just completely blow me away with how enthused he was about history, and how he was intelligently conversing with strange adults.

I took a catalog.

And I read it cover to cover, multiple times, over the next few weeks.  Usually in the middle of the night, while nursing William.

I fell in love.

We used Sonlight very faithfully for the next decade, but I found myself trying some other things too.  Did a bit of classical, tried unit studies, did some textbook... and kept finding myself being pulled to more literature-rich approaches. 

One big discovery while doing classical types of things was the book Latin-Centered Curriculum by Andrew Campbell.  First off, that book freed me from the idea that classical education is defined as a 4-year chronological approach to history.  Second, he highly encourages reading aloud.  A lot. The biggest take-away,  for me, was the idea of multum non multa.  Basically, that means quality, not quantity.  We don't have to read every classic, we don't have to read every modern classic, and we don't have to learn every detail of history.  What we need to do is to do a few things well.  And read aloud a lot, without dissecting every piece of literature we cover.

A book a couple of years ago, The Eternal Argument by Robin Finley, pushed me into defining our style as lit-based.  It was emphasizing the need for discussion-based approaches, and I recognized that discussion was exactly what one of my kids desperately needed. 

William's school shelf: Core 300 and Illuminating Literature
We are back to Sonlight for a lot of our schooling.  William is working through Core 300, 20th Century History, and even though he is in high school, mostly I read the books aloud and we discuss them as we go, or he/we listens to an audiobook and we discuss them a whole lot.  A few books, he reads himself and we discuss.  He is severely dyslexic, and reading isn't a strength.  That means that we find alternate methods when readily available, and he reads when necessary.

The Core G shelf
Richard and Trina are doing Core G, World History, though that is going rather slowly.  And of course, we had to grab some other favorites too, like D'Aulaire's Greek Myths.

The big difference with us as far as Sonlight now versus Sonlight fifteen years ago is that I no longer stress about reading all the books, nor about doing all of the included discussion questions.  Some books we just skip entirely.  Some books we read and talk about, but I never look at the included assignments or discussion questions.

Sonlight chooses great books, they really do.  But we don't have to read them all to be "well read" and we certainly do not have to analyze them all either.

This means a lot of great books, and a whole lot of discussing the situations the characters find themselves in and what we think the author got right about a time period and what wasn't quite so authentic sounding.

When it comes to science, we make it a point to read at least one biography of a scientist for some perspective on the human side of great scientific discoveries.

What do my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about their Homeschool Method? Go visit them to find out!