Tuesday, September 18, 2018

All Saints: a Bethany House review

I have no idea why I went for it when I had the opportunity to review All Saints, by Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle.  I knew nothing of the story, didn’t realize it was being made into a movie except that something in the blurb said so, and the title doesn’t exactly scream out that this is going to be a story that will really move me.


The subtitle might have helped.  All Saints: The Surprising True Story of How Refugees from Burma Brought Life to a Dying Church.

Of course, the publisher's description is great too, and I had to have read it:
The True Story Behind the Powerful Film ALL SAINTS
Newly ordained, Michael Spurlock's first assignment is to pastor All Saints, a struggling church with twenty-five devoted members and a mortgage well beyond its means. The best option may be to close the church rather than watch it wither any further. But when All Saints hesitantly risks welcoming a community of Karen refugees from Burma--former farmers scrambling for a fresh start in America--Michael feels they may be called to an improbable new mission.

Michael must choose between closing the church and selling the property--or listening to a still, small voice challenging the people of All Saints to risk it all and provide much-needed hope to their new community. Together, they risk everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all.

Discover the true story that inspired the film while also diving deeper into the background of the Karen people, the church, and how a community of believers rally to reach out to those in need, yet receive far more than they dared imagine.

The Reverend Michael Spurlock served All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee, for three years. He is currently on the clergy staff at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City. Michael, his wife, Aimee, and their two children live in New York City.

Award-winning author and investigative journalist Jeanette Windle has lived in six countries, authored nineteen books, and mentors writers on five continents. To learn more, visit her at www.jeanettewindle.com.


But I don’t remember actually thinking about that.  I just determined this was something I should read.  It arrived and I set it aside, and completely forgot about it.

I ran across it a month ago, and felt guilt that I had not read and reviewed it.  So one afternoon, I opened the book and started to read.  I was so completely pulled into the story that I didn’t stop for much of anything.  I might have made dinner, but not much else happened.

What a fabulous story!

Michael Spurlock is writing his own story here, or a piece of it.  There’s a missionary story I’m reading with my kids for school right now, written by the missionary himself.  The description of the book in our curriculum guide says something about how while the missionary is describing events that happened in his life, and describing that part of it from his point of view, they don’t believe the missionary is the protagonist in the story.  He is, in fact, a fairly minor character.  They argue that God is the protagonist.  Waiting with anticipation and excitement to see the drama play out, to see His kingdom advance.  To see light brought in to the darkness. 


I think that description completely applies here.  Reverend Spurlock is a character in this story.  An important character, surely.  But God himself is the protagonist. 

Aren’t those the best kind of stories?

In a nutshell, this story follows the life of Michael, and the life of Ye Win on the other side of the globe.  Their stories intersect in a dying church in Smyrna, TN.  All Saints Episcopal Church.  This story also has light being brought into the darkness, or at least light coming into the dimness.  Church politics, a church split – a gorgeous church building that is a shell of a church.  War refugees from Burma are the ones bringing the light back. 

This is a truly phenomenal story, and it is a very quick read.  



Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Promise of Dawn: a Bethany House review

I’ve read quite a few books by Lauraine Snelling before, primarily her stories that take place in the fictional town of Blessing, North Dakota, which is set somewhere just north of where my father’s family immigrated to from Sweden.  Her characters emigrated from Norway and formed a community there, and I enjoyed reading about them in the Song of Blessing series.  You can read my review of From This Day Forward, the fourth book in that series.



The Promise of Dawn, the first in the Under Northern Skies series, follows another part of that family as they move to northern Minnesota and begin a new life in this new world.  I don’t have the same personal ties to logging in that state, but my German and Polish families came to central Minnesota around this same time period.

Let me start with the publisher's description:
In a Compelling New Saga, One Family Strives to Make Their Own Future
Opportunities are scarce in Norway, so when Rune and Signe Carlson receive a letter from Rune's uncle, Einar Strand, offering to loan them money for passage to America, Rune accepts. Signe is reluctant to leave her home, especially as she is pregnant with her fourth child, but Einar promises to give them land of their own, something they could never afford in Norway.

But life in Minnesota is more difficult than Signe imagined. Uncle Einar and Aunt Gerd are hard, demanding people, and Signe and her family soon find themselves worked nearly to the bone to pay off their debt. Afraid they will never have the life they dreamed of, she begins to lose her trust in God. When the dangers of the North Woods strike close to home, will she find the strength she needs to lead her family into the promise of a new dawn?


I enthusiastically started reading this story, and for whatever reason, I totally bogged down.  I absolutely could not get enthused enough about the characters or the story to read more than a few chapters.  And then the book sat for months, taunting me, as I did promise to review it.


I picked it up again, read an additional chapter, and set it back down.

A few months went by, and I told myself I simply had to read this book.  This time, however, I started over.  And this time, I was completely sucked in starting in about the third chapter.  I did not set the book down until I had read the very last word.  I immediately checked to see if the second book in the series was out, and was thrilled that it was.  I read that cover to cover as soon as it arrived.  Two books into the series, and I can absolutely say that I love this series more than the books about Blessing.

I have no idea why there was such a roadblock the first time I tried to read this.  I have to assume there was something going on in my life that just made it impossible for me to continue.

This book follows Signe, her husband Rune, and their three sons, the oldest of whom is fifteen.  Signe has recently discovered she is pregnant, and having lost a few children since the birth of her youngest son, that does make this journey to America that much more traumatic.

They arrive, unprepared for much of anything they will face.  Things are far more difficult than they imagined, and while some of the conflicts of the story resolve by the end of the book, not all do.

Another thing is that this isn’t a romance.  While there is a wedding in the story, it happens the very first chapter, before Rune and Signe leave Norway.

One of the things I really loved about the Blessing series was that you felt a bit like you were dropping in for a part of the lives of the folks of this town.  As you finished a book, there were things that hadn’t been all wrapped up, and you knew that there were more stories that could be told, and maybe the next book would answer some of those questions.

That feeling is even stronger in this series, and that is speaking for both this title and book 2, A Breath of Hope.  I think what I truly love, though, is that the primary conflict – the one resolved by the final pages – isn’t romance.  There’s a hint that Book 3 (coming in November) might be a bit more romance-driven, which would be fine.  It isn’t the central story of the first two books though.  I find that refreshing.


Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, September 7, 2018

GrammarPlanet: A Homeschool Review Crew review

As part of the Homeschool Review Crew, I end up seeing a lot of products every year.  Sometimes I tend to be a bit (okay, more than a bit!) jaded about them.

Then something like GrammarPlanet, put out by the amazing folks at Analytical Grammar, comes along, and I have the perfect answer to a "what should I use?" question that I hadn't even asked yet.  The best thing about GrammarPlanet is the price, as it is absolutely free.  This online grammar program is supported by ads.  If you don't like the ads, you will be able to get rid of them by purchasing a paid version.  The ad-free version is what we reviewed.

We've struggled with grammar here.  Mostly, I spent so much time teaching reading with my various dyslexic kiddos that really dealing with grammar was not all that high up on my priority list.  I've attempted to do grammar with them off and on, but it has ended up being far more off than on.

I know I've tried using some very good programs.  You know, like Analytical Grammar.  But those have all failed, for one simple reason.  I am that reason.  Everything we've tried has taken too much of my time, and I am spread too thin as it is.  I haven't made grammar instruction enough of a priority.
This is part of my head-over-heels response to GrammarPlanet.  I don't have to truly be involved.  I created accounts for all of my at-home children, even the recent graduate.  He saw me working on it before the reviews started, and he asked me if he could use it.  "Mom, I need that."  Yes, dear.  Yes, you do.

I sat them down, we watched the introductory video together, and I explained a few things.  The conversation sounded something like this.
This is part of your English class this year.  You will use it.  Three days a week, for at least ten minutes, but absolutely no longer than fifteen.  Don't skip steps.  Don't think you know it already.  Print the page or two of notes, and keep them in a binder.  Watch the video.  Pay special attention to the Process Steps.  If you don't follow her instructions, you will struggle.  And I will say, "I told you so."
Erin Karl, who appears in the videos, suggests these short sessions, so I'm not just letting my kids off easy here.

After that, though, I only have to say things like, "Hey!  Did you do GrammarPlanet today?  And what about the dishes?  Since you're in the kitchen, can you get me a cup of coffee?"

They do know that they can come to me if they really aren't getting something, but so far, I've really only needed to work with Trina, the 12-year-old.  Her big brothers are able to be totally independent.

How this works


First off, you print out the notes, which are pretty short and colorful, though sometimes they are longer than the "page or two" I told my children to expect.  Then you watch the video, which covers everything in the notes plus more.  A great feature is that the video will play for a section, and then a little quiz pops up.  You'll be asked a fairly simple question or two, which certainly helps keep my mind -- or my mouse -- from wandering.  The program does not track how you do on these mini-quizzes, but if you miss questions, you can go back to re-watch that segment.

Once you get through the video, you have the chance to work with Practice Sentences.  Here's a whole bunch of screenshots from Unit 4.


The first step is to read the sentence and make sure you understand it.  Next is to mark all of the nouns and proper nouns.  Multi-word proper nouns are marked with little wings.  Here, "email" and "pictures" are marked as nouns, and "Baldwin Street Gutbuster" is marked as a proper noun.


 

Then you go look at each noun and ask "which (noun)" and label the answers as either articles or adjectives.  For example, "which email?"  "A long" email.  There are "several" pictures.  It is "the" Baldwin Street Gutbuster.







The final step in unit four is to go through the words left and mark the pronouns.

There weren't many words left to choose, but those would be "He" and "us."

I would recommend re-reading the sentence at that point, paying attention to the unhighlighted words.  In this case, those are either prepositions or verbs, and GrammarPlanet hasn't taught either of those yet.  Those are coming in units 6 and 7.


Once you think you have everything labeled appropriately, you hit submit.  Ideally, you get a screen that looks like this one.  "Perfect!" is a label that is always nice to see!

The program will give you another sentence, or move you on to take the test.  This is another fabulous aspect of the online program.  If you are seeing those "Perfect!" labels, it will move you to the test sooner. 

If you are getting messages like this one, "Oh, so close!" or other messages pointing out your errors, you will get more practice sentences.

I like that so much.

If I grasp the concept and pay attention, I don't have to do as much work.  If I am missing something, I keep doing more practice.

But remember, the student isn't supposed to work more than fifteen minutes.  If it is an area that they grasp easily, they can get through a unit in a couple of days.  If they struggle, they can work a few sentences and be done for the day.  The concepts will percolate a bit, and hopefully in a couple days, the practice will go better.  Or maybe re-watching the video will help.  This isn't a race. 

In the practice, you get immediate feedback, so you can study your error and then do the next sentence.  In the test, however, you have to answer all of the sentences before you see how you did.  

The results look like this.

You can see the green checkmarks for the ones you got entirely correct.  Question 4 has a red x, and indicates the student got 9 of 10 correct.  Clicking to that screen shows that the student missed the noun "time" entirely.

With an overall score of 98%, the program suggests moving on to Unit 5.

After a test is taken, an email is sent to the parent account, which means that as the kids finish off a unit, I get a brief email telling me who scored what on which unit, and linking me to the parent dashboard where I can go for more details.


Bottom line

I love this.  My kids aren't quite to that point yet, but they do love that it doesn't eat up too much of their time.  My aspiring filmmaker has not even griped to me about the video quality, which does surprise me.  The videos are not catchy by any stretch, nor are they of amazing quality.  They absolutely do get the job done, though, and that is absolutely enough for me.  Also, they are captioned.  You can turn the captioning on or off.

Right now, there are 13 units on the site.  Most people should not be moving faster than about a week per unit, though the first few could go faster.  There will be 60 units in total, and these units will thoroughly cover grammar, as you can tell from the outline on the left.

Seriously, Correlating Conjunctions? Appositive Phrases?   Nonessential Modifier Comma?  I don't think I know what those mean.  I probably will recognize them when I get there, but the names mean nothing to me.  Yes, I am a student too.  I'm staying ahead of my kids so far, having completed unit 6.  Hopefully that will continue.

The key for one of the first diagramming assignments
Unit six is where sentence diagramming begins, and I suspect I'll need to be a bit more involved when they get there.   They ease into it, as you are only diagramming the prepositional phrases initially.  The idea is to diagram on paper, and compare your diagram to the key provided.

I think this is a fantastic resource that everyone should consider for their students who are in middle school or older.  They say ages ten and up.  Personally, I think I'd wait a bit longer than that.


http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/grammar-program-online-grammarplanet-reviews/


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Friday, August 31, 2018

Comparative Religions: A MasterBooks Review


We've had the opportunity lately to start working through a high school course available from Master BooksComparative Religions: Practical Apologetics for the Real World is a one-year class for 11th and 12th graders.

I love adding some of these Master Books courses into our lives.  The Teacher Guide lays out a 36 week plan to work through the three volumes of World Religions and Cults, with material scheduled for five days a week.

The Teacher Guide includes worksheets that you can reproduce for your family, along with quizzes and tests. 

The meat of this course is, of course, the three books by Bodie Hodge and Roger Patterson:  World Religions and Cults Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

 We are still in World Religions and Cults: Counterfeits of Christianity, as the course has you starting Volume 2 in week 11.  We aren't there yet.

Volume 1 is good.  The first third of the book talks about why this topic is important, and it introduces Christianity.  There are chapters about the Catholic and Orthdox churches.  I did appreciate those chapters, though I did feel I needed to detour a bit and we dug into some additional information for both.

The rest of the book gets into most of the religions you would think about for a comparative religions course:  Islam and Judaism in particular.  This volume covers Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism.  Those all have fairly lengthy chapters, and these four are roughly 1/4 of the book.  The final portion  tends to be shorter chapters on other things I'm at least somewhat familiar with, though the kids weren't necessarily:  Baha'i, Deism, Satanism, Freemasonry, Zoroastrianism, and Moonies.  The only world religion covered that I really didn't know anything about was the Worldwide Church of the Creator.  We aren't quite that far yet (week 9!)

I'm using this with my recent graduate, and both high school students.  Richard is too young for this (age 14) as he's only a 9th grader.  I would not use this with just him.  But tagging along has worked .

I've been reading the e-book aloud, and we get into some pretty serious discussions from that.  We talk through the worksheets as well, which have the kids summarizing the beliefs of the various religions in the categories of what they believe about God, sin, salvation, creation, etc.  Very handy to have.

We have covered a lot of this information before, though, so getting past the first half or so of this volume was good.  I'm really looking forward to moving on though.

World Religions and Cults: Moralistic, Mythical and Mysticism Religions is the next one up.  As implied by the title, here we will deal with the Eastern Mysticism religions, like Hinduism, Jainism, and such.  We also have chapters on ancient Egyptian beliefs and various mythologies.  This book also hits on areas like paganism, Buddhism, and so much more.  There are around twenty religions covered in this book, which is a bit overwhelming.  Most chapters are short.

I read the chapter on Greek mythology, and found that to be fascinating.  In addition to the material I expected, like a general outline of the various gods, and a discussion of why understanding this is important in understanding our past, there was also a discussion about how today's culture scoffs at this mythology as we are so far beyond that kind of primitive belief.  But it isn't so much that the mythology was about Zeus or Poseidon, but that they were worshiping the force behind those gods.  The text asks if we can really say we've moved beyond the worship of wine, or the worship of reason.  Ouch.  Clearly humanity still worships sex, we still worship youth.  Are we really that different?

Something to ponder.  And I really look forward to discussing this chapter with my high schoolers.


World Religions and Cults: Atheistic and Humanistic Religions is the third volume.  Here we get back to fewer total religious systems and slightly longer chapters.  Obviously, this covers atheism and agnosticism, but it also talks about Nazism, communism, naturalism, postmodernism, and a few more.  This book has quite a few appendices (eight of them).  I think this is going to be incredibly valuable.


What I love is that although there are many, many authors of the various chapters in the book, the tone stays fairly consistent.  And the biggest thing is that it doesn't get overly technical.  Most of the book(s) is fairly conversational and easy to follow.

We are learning from this course, and I definitely appreciate it!

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.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Exploring Creation with Health and Nutrition {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

High School Health is a course I struggled to pull together for my graduates.  On the one hand, I thought it was important that it be on their transcript.  On the other, everything I found was boring, stupid, or both.  I cobbled something together, but this is one course that I felt a bit unsettled about.  Did they really earn a half credit?  I'm not convinced.

When I heard that Apologia Educational Ministries had a homeschool health and nutrition course coming out, I was excited.  When I was told they wanted the Crew to review Exploring Creation with Health and Nutrition by Dr. Laura Chase, I was very excited. When the Health and Nutrition Basic Set showed up at my home, I was very, very excited. 

The basic set includes the hardcover text and one spiral-bound notebook.  The notebook is not an extra like it is with their high school science courses, this is an essential part of the program.  Since I have two high school students, I needed an extra Student Notebook.

Richard working on "On Your Own" questions
The hardcover text is just what it sounds like.  It contains the reading material and "On Your Own" questions and answers.  Like their high school science materials, the On Your Own could be answered on a separate piece of paper, but there is space in the notebook to be answering those questions.

The notebook also includes the information for the various projects, plus chapter study guides and chapter tests.  That isn't information that is included elsewhere.  If you complete the course without the projects, you are missing a lot.

The basics of this course are that the student read the text, which is addressed to the students in a nice, personable way.  There are "On Your Own" questions to be answered as you go along, which help the student to pick out what is important.  Most modules (all but module 2 and 11) have projects to do.  At the end of the chapter, there is a study guide to fill out, and a chapter test.  Three modules (9, 12, and 14) don't have study guides or tests.


There are approximately sixty projects included, and these cover all kinds of things.  In Module 1, project 1.4 had them determining things like whether they were right or left leg dominant, and right or left eye dominant, among other things like morning vs. night person.

As you can see in the photo on the left, determining foot dominance was a nice break from bookwork!  Which foot do you naturally use to kick a ball?  For all of my students, they kick with their right. 

We've tested eye dominance in the past, with mixed results as some of my kids are left eye dominant.  My current high schooolers are both right eye dominant though.

Many of the early projects involve a lot of writing in the student book, and not a whole lot of "doing" as such.  They would certainly prefer that there be more active stuff.

As we get started on Module 3, I laughed a bit looking over the projects.  Project 3.2 has them going through a decision-making process.  I simply love that it is open-ended.  In my high school health class, we had to do something similar, only we were assigned a problem to decide.  "You/your girlfriend just found out you're/she's pregnant.  What do you do?"

I hated that assignment.

(For the record, I gave the child up for adoption.  My teacher graded me down because she didn't agree with my lack of pros under the option of "have an abortion," and she thought my cons for that were unrealistic.  Whatever.  Have I mentioned that I love that this resource is solidly Christian?)

The next project in module 3 involves a digital media fast.  I'm really looking forward to that one.

Other projects, just for some examples, include taking a hearing test, and color blindness test; hunting for various items (preservatives, color additives, MSG, sugar) in your food; tracking food, sleep, exercise, and oral care; checking blood pressure and pulse; and oh-so-much-more.

Some projects involve peer pressure.  Two I am really looking forward to in module 4 are practicing refusal and setting boundaries.  We all need those.

The author explains in an interview that "I wanted to put in projects which helped the student understand himself or herself better."  I think she succeeded in that.

You can read the interview yourself, in this free activity book.  It has a lot of great stuff, but the author interview really helped me to fall in love with this program.  This statement was part of that falling in love bit:
Health books tend to promise the moon: if you eat right, if you don’t smoke, if you exercise, well, your life will be great. That’s a lie.
She also talks about covering more than just physical health.  This book includes modules on nutrition, mental health, exercise, illness, and yes -- reproduction.  I love that reproduction is the very last module.

Each module (I think, I have not looked at every single one yet!) also talks about careers in health fields, including some interesting choices people don't necessarily think of immediately.

One more amazing feature of this course is the course web page.  Now, I've used these pages with other Apologia books in the past.  I always have to try to remember where the password is to get into it, and what the website is in the first place.  So generally, I have started out strong, and then I just forget to go there.  More recently, I don't even bother with it at all.

Now you create an account, which does still require me to find the website.  It's linked on Apologia's main page though, so seriously.  Even I can remember that.

Within your account, you add a course... and you don't have to do that every single time.  It remembers that we are doing Health and Nutrition.  I simply love this.

This screenshot to the right shows the links for Module 3, which I was checking out just yesterday. 

I could show you a screenshot of all the books I've already added, but that really doesn't relate to this review.

Except that knowing this is out here makes me more likely to get some serious use out of these extras.


Some of the links are to articles, like this career related one from Module 2.  Some are to demonstrations, or to videos.  This kind of thing adds a lot to the program, and now it is easy to get to.  I am so thrilled about that!

The course extras page is just one more way to have built-in flexibility with this class.



The Health and Nutrition course is designed to be one high school credit, and the schedule in the front of the student notebook has you working three days a week for 34 weeks.  That pace is really quite nice.  I love having something that does not have to be completed each day!


If you do this five days a week, and double up a couple of days, you can get through it in a long semester, roughly 20 weeks.  I would rather take a bit more time and work in some of those extras!


I highly recommend this course, and I know this fills a huge need in the homeschooling community.  Interesting, fun, and relevant health education for high school.

Go see what other Crew members thought:


http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/health-and-nutrition-basic-set-apologia-educational-ministries-reviews/



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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

4-H and Homeschool: Work It Wednesday

Welcome to Day Three of the 5 Days of Back to (Home)School Encouragement! Blog Hop! 


Today the topic is "Work it in," with one idea being to talk about how you fit something in, especially things like electives.  I had a few ideas of things I could write about here, too. When I changed my mind about what to write about yesterday, though, I absolutely knew that today's post needed to address 4-H!

We joined 4-H this year.  I've thought about it off and on, but never took the plunge to go figuring it out.  Part of it was that for five kids, it just seemed far too expensive.  And time consuming.  I may have been right about that.

This year, though, with three -- and a couple other homeschooling families I know and love -- it was decided to attempt this 4-H thing.

I heard from a lot of people that we shouldn't attempt more than 1-2 projects per person.  It was hard, but we did narrow it down so they all started out in Shooting Sports, and then Thomas did 4-H Filmmaking, Richard did Computers, and Trina did Clothing Construction.

Kids getting sick and not being able to complete the Hunter Safety course, meant that only Thomas stayed in that.

Here he is shooting at the county competition.  He went on to shoot at the state competition last weekend.  There will be more about THAT to come.



So, from our vast experience in barely getting record books done, scrambling to figure out requirements and all, here is some of my advice for a first-time 4-H homeschooling family, or any family really.
  • Ask questions.  Then ask some more.  Take a look at the record books early in the year so you have a clue as to what you are supposed to be keeping track of.  Thomas tracked all kinds of stuff he didn't need for Film, but he didn't track the stuff he needed for Shooting Sports.
  • I'd absolutely echo the advice about doing one or two projects per child.  And I'd encourage combining kids into the same project if possible.  I had a tough time keeping track of four projects.  I can't imagine how I'd have done with more.
  • Look at the stuff from a long-term perspective, thinking about the end and working backwards.  Some projects -- like Clothing Construction -- have multiple levels.  Trina could have done Clothing Construction 2 this year, but it would have stretched her.  Much more fun, I think, to focus on some basics, and save Clothing Construction 2 for next year.  She can easily get through all of the levels before she ages out.  Or she may change interests.
  • Don't force your kids into the stuff that interests you.  There is enough stress without kids not being terribly invested in the project themselves.
  • Ask questions.  Then ask some more.  And look at those record books again in the middle of the year.
There were a lot of moments this year where we were absolutely convinced we were NEVER doing this again.

A lot of them.

But looking back over things at the end of the year (we are DONE now!!) and looking over exhibits at the state fair a bit, for this coming year, we are incorporating a lot more 4-H into our school.

:eek:

So that is part 2 of this post.

 

 

 

How do we turn this into school?

If my kids were all younger, meaning elementary and middle school age, I think I could easily mostly 4-H school.  There is definitely science available.  You can easily cover a fair amount of writing.  There are loads of electives.

For high school, things are a bit more challenging, however I do see a few areas where we can absolutely combine 4-H projects and schoolwork.  We haven't made final decisions on any of this until after we go to the State Fair, and after we hold our Student-Teacher Conferences.  But some things we are looking at:

  • Computers in the 21st Century for both Thomas and Richard.  This can easily be incorporated into a computer class, probably a full credit.
  • Electric.  They have levels 1-4.  Richard has four years, so he could do one per year.  Thomas might do levels 1 and 2 this year.  
  • Junk Drawer Robotics.  They have levels 1-3 of this, and Richard has made it clear that he wants to do one per year. 
  • Model Rocketry.  There are six units here, so Richard may work through more than one this year.  Thomas is not interested.  With these three (Electric, Robotics, Rocketry) we may combine years into a credit, or even into a 1/2 credit.  We'll see.
  • Shooting Sports.  I'll be using this for a half credit of PE.
  • They have to do demonstrations, and that most certainly counts towards English.
  • Filmmaking.  Thomas certainly plans to do this again.  Oh, the subjects we can cover.  Especially when he ends up doing a documentary.  Filmmaking this past year was a chunk of his English credit, and we snuck in some history there too. And of course, he does have courses in filmmaking on his transcript.
  • We've talked about -- but probably won't do -- using some of the entomology, gardening, wildlife, veterinary science projects in lieu of some of the textbook biology.  I'm not entirely sure about that. 
  • That doesn't even get into things like Home Ec and Shop. 
I know the above list is overwhelming.  More than a bit.  But my advice about 1-2 projects really was a first year thing.  I know lots of homeschool families that do more and make it a school subject.  Some of the guides that are available are very thorough.  I think the big key with multiple projects (yeah, laugh heartily here and ask me next year how this worked out) is to be incorporating them into life and working throughout the year.  On everything, including the record books.

We may be biting off more than we can chew.  That remains to be seen.


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:

Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Angie @ Run Ran Family Adventures & Learning
Annette @ A Net in Time
Ashley @ Gift of Chaos
Betty @ Let’s Get Real
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses








Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Combining my older kids: Take a Look Tuesday

Welcome to Day Two of the 5 Days of Back to (Home)School Encouragement! Blog Hop! 


Today the topic is "take a look," with one idea being to talk about something that is new to your homeschool.  I had a few ideas of things I could write about here, and sat down to write one thing.  However, it occurred to me that the biggest new thing to my homeschool is just how much we are doing together this year.

One of my favorite read-alouds from those early years
Back when the kids were little (defined here as preschool and elementary), we did 'group school' for a huge part of our day.  We were using Sonlight, and I truly loved that time.  We had some amazing years in there reading such amazing books.  All of us.  Even if the little ones weren't remembering any of it.  I do know that they picked up on things that were totally appropriate to their age.

Somewhere around Connor's 7th grade year, keeping them together just fell apart.  They were in 7th, 5th, 3rd, K and PreK, and I could no longer target the oldest two and let the younger ones get what they could.  We had also recently joined the Homeschool Review Crew, so it was pretty easy to have them all moving in separate directions.

I missed our together time, but every time I tried to bring it back, we floundered.

I've now graduated two, so the students I have at home now are in 11th, 9th and 7th grades. I didn't exactly set out to combine them all, but it sure seems to be falling into place.

Our Sonlight shelf -- with their elementary US history below
The biggest thing was that Thomas needs US History, and I do try to combine my high school students as much as I can, so that means Richard will do US History this year too.  I presented them with a few options, talked about pros and cons of each, and they chose Sonlight Core 100.  I had also decided that it would make sense for Trina to do US History also, with a focus on earning a bunch of the America Heritage Girls badges.  I had a few ideas for how to accomplish that, but one day on the website, I noticed that this is recommended for ages 12-16, grades 7-11.  Trina is 12, in 7th grade.

So an idea was born.  Why not combine all three of them?

I presented some options to Trina, and she glommed on to the "Sonlight with her brothers" plan.  No hesitation, no doubt.  The plan is to definitely do the history, and to just listen to a lot of the literature.  And we do the majority of this out loud, because I want to really be a part of it all.  Discussions are so much better when I understand what is being discussed.

We are also going to be adding in the White House Holidays Unit Studies that were reviewed by the Crew a couple months ago.  Starting with Labor Day next wek.

For English, the plan was to work through Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings.  Richard, Thomas and I were all excited about that.  And then... and then everyone started on a huge Narnia kick, and we started talking about Further Up and Further In, which is intended for grades 5-8, so it is allegedly too young for my high schoolers.  But the more we looked at it online, the more we talked, the more we felt this was right.  All of us can do this, together.

Combining our CS Lewis study with actually doing the lit assignments for a few of the Sonlight titles (Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird) and some other writing assignments from Power in Your Hands (going very slowly through that!) will comprise our English credit.

I think it is going to be fun!


We are using Apologia Health and Nutrition (watch for a review next week!) for both boys.

Science hasn't been totally decided yet, but at least Richard and Thomas will be doing that together.  I'll touch on that tomorrow.  And I may be making them all do Spanish as a group too.

If that is the case, we have five fairly "core" credits they are doing as a group.  Math is the one area where each student will be doing their own thing.

I am so stinkin' excited.  We've started Sonlight, and the Health.  We're starting CS Lewis this week.  The rest is waiting until after Labor Day.


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:

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
Tess @ Circling Through This Life
Wendy @ Life at Rossmont
Yvie @ Gypsy Road






Monday, August 20, 2018

Student-Teacher Conferences: Motivation Monday

This post does contain one affiliate link -- to SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

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 SchoolhouseTeachers.com (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:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GeologybyNorthwestTreasures/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/northwesttreasu/boards/


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