I've recently been reading the third book in The Golden Gate Chronicles by Karen Barnett. Through the Shadows has been as much fun to read as the previous books in the series. I reviewed the second one, Beyond the Ashes, about a year ago.
This book really felt like it could stand alone, despite it being the third in a series. There are a few things that add some depth to the story, but this one didn't ever feel like you were missing something huge by starting later in the series.
About the book:
As San Francisco rises from the ashes, an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings.
devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San
Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is
not so easy to overcome---and neither are the past regrets shadowing
Elizabeth King's hopeful future.
Hoping to right her wrongs,
Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in
Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to
sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.
her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her
heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles
McKinley---a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco's crooked
politics---Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and
hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?
I really like Elizabeth. She has made mistakes in her young life, and she's trying to atone for those. A friend drags her to a meeting, where a lady is talking about rescuing Chinese girls from slavery in Chinatown, and rescuing them from the brothels as well. Elizabeth feels drawn to this work, especially after hearing Miss Cameron say, "We are all God's children. None have fallen so far as to be unredeemable by his love and sacrifice on the cross."
That quote hits home, and soon Elizabeth is packing up and moving to San Francisco to work as a teacher in the mission. Elizabeth has siblings in San Francisco, and if you have read the previous two books, you are familiar with them already. They flit in and out of the story, but primarily, this book is about Elizabeth and the rescued Chinese girls, and also about Charles as he starts off in his career as an attorney.
Barnett does a great job of incorporating faith lessons in the story without being preachy.
One thing I find interesting is how two of the biggest issues in this story, set in 1908, are still such big issues today. Sex trafficking and corruption in politics are headlines today, and it sure doesn't seem like things have improved at all.
What is wonderful about this story, though, is that it is clear that an individual can make such a huge difference, even in a such a big issue. What are you doing to make a difference in people's lives?
I was first introduced to Science Shepherd when I had the chance to review their high school Biology program. We absolutely loved this excellent biology course, and I later had the chance to check out their middle school Life Science program. That was great also.
Then they came out with Introductory Science and I kept thinking that I needed to try that, based on how good their upper level homeschool science was. Introductory Science is intended for ages 6-11. There are two levels of workbooks, Level A for ages 6-8 and Level B for ages 9-11. This program is very creation-based.
Since my daughter is 10, we went with Level B. Her big brother, age 12, is watching the videos and doing the activities with her, but since he is older than they recommend, I don't really consider him to be "doing" the course.
What you get is a one-year subscription to online videos. There are 35 weeks of lessons, with 5 video lessons (almost) every week. There are also videos to demonstrate some of the activities. The videos are pretty short, most of them in the two to three minute range. There is a BIG workbook available. All ages watch the same video, but the expectations are different in the workbooks. Level A (younger kids) usually has fewer questions. Level B gets a bit more detailed, and there is a review activity each week that hits some of the vocabulary.
Either way, however, there is just a bit of workbook activity per lesson. On days where there isn't an additional assignment of some sort, Trina can be done in ten minutes. I love that.
I can just hear it. "Ten minutes of science? That's not enough!"
I'd argue that it is. We're talking elementary ages here, roughly 1st-5th grade. I like spending a few minutes on good science, where the materials include science presented by an actual scientist. And ten minutes? It's a rare day that I can't fit in a ten-minute science lesson. One problem I have had with other science programs is simply having a big enough chunk of time to work on it every day.
The ten-minute thing also means that (especially for older students) it is pretty easy to go combining lessons and having a big science lesson one day a week.
If you've read my blog for long, you probably realize I have some pretty strong opinions about science education. I think science is very important, but most of the materials and methods out there for teaching it (homeschool or public school) aren't worth the effort.
What I look for in an ideal elementary science program for homeschool is:
Is it scientifically accurate? Do they know what an experiment is? Do they define terms correctly? Do they even use scientific terminology?
Is there hands-on stuff that I can actually do with my kids without shopping a bunch of specialty stores and without breaking the bank?
Is it easy to implement from a mom point-of-view? Do I have to do a lot of prep work? Do I have to spend time figuring out how to schedule it? Do I have to know a lot of science myself to be effective?
There isn't much out there that meets the above criteria.
Science Shepherd, however, does a pretty good job. It is incredibly easy to use - watch the video, do a worksheet, sometimes do an activity. In my family, we tend to then reinforce the scientific vocabulary throughout the day.
In watching the first lesson from week 8 (Geology) yesterday, one thing that struck me was how much vocabulary is built into the video lessons. The topic for the week is how the earth is shaped, via volcanoes, glaciers, earthquakes and erosion. In the first day, on volcanoes, you review science terms like crust and magma, and then start using terms like dormant, vent, erupts, lava, and lava fountains. This is one of the best aspects of this program, in my opinion. He uses the vocabulary, and doesn't dumb it down. (Coincidentally, this is the sample video that is available on the website, so you can see how it works for yourself.)
Then you go to the workbook. One thing I like about the workbook is that if you were paying attention, you will be able to get the questions right. This is elementary science, and it shouldn't have trick questions, nor should it make you memorize every word of the teaching section.
That being said, I think that the workbook could capitalize a bit more on the vocabulary that is introduced, at least for the Level B kids. This particular lesson does include the concepts of dormant and active, and of magma and lava. And in the review at the end of the week, you cover the terms lava and volcano (plus words from the rest of the lessons in week 8). But I wish this part was a bit stronger.
On the other hand, if I make a point of watching the videos with my kids, it is very easy for me to reinforce the scientific vocabulary as it is so clearly presented in the video.
Because my daughter has had a lot of science in the past, and she is on the older end of the age range, a lot of the material in this course is review for her. Regardless, she is getting a systematic overview of a lot of science areas.
Life Science: Plants, Underwater Creatures, Flying Creatures, Land Creatures, Human Beings, Be Healthy, Ecology and Natural Resources
Physical Science: Matter, Energy, Motion, Magnets
There is a materials list available on the website, and the most challenging item there for my household was a leaf. Almost everything else was something we already had in the house, or something (like an avocado) that we could easily pick up. Here is a time-lapse video of one activity we did a couple weeks ago, in the meteorology section. The idea was to show how storms form, with a cold mass (blue ice cubes) meeting a warm mass (red lukewarm water).
My bottom line:
I would probably recommend a bit younger than the age ranges they give for this, suggesting it for ages 5-10, probably. If you add a bit more work with the vocabulary, I think it is great for 5th-6th graders as well. One thing I love about the videos is that he doesn't talk down to the kids at all. No animated characters or puppets or anything "little kid-ish" in nature. Even my teens are willing to watch him. That also means he isn't quite as engaging for the younger ages, but the videos are short and there is a lot of information.
Short, informative lessons that use scientific terms correctly, and the program introduces the basic concepts throughout most of science? This program definitely fits my criteria for a good science program.
You can go see what others on the Crew thought too.
Once upon a time, I used to post every week about what we are doing as read-alouds. I was doing that because I needed to feel accountable about actually reading to my kids.
I strayed away from that, and then I strayed from doing the reading aloud too.
I need to get back to it.
Part of my decision to post this today is related to my recent review of IEW's Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. One of the greatest things about this program is that you get Andrew Pudewa's presentation "Nurturing Competent Communicators" as both a DVD and audio presentation.
One thing that is highly recommended in this presentation is reading aloud to your kids, especially as they start reading for themselves. And to read a whole lot. It is hugely convicting.
I'm totally convinced that my reading aloud made a huge difference for my teens, as I used to be pretty diligent about that.
So I am convicted. Again. That I am going to start reading aloud regularly, even if I can no longer pull off two hours a day.
So, this past week, we've done a bit of reading. Not a lot, as I lost kids for some activities. But this is what we are reading:
Laddie, A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter. We've only just started this, but everyone is loving it so far. My hope is to finish it up this coming week.
Little Sister is who is telling this story, and so far we just love her. She adores her big brother, and we really are looking forward to learning more of her story.
The only other thing we are doing as a read-aloud at the moment is a book called Secrets of Ancient Man. I'll be reviewing that soon.
Ever since I started truly homeschooling, I've been at least a bit drawn to the idea of a classical education. Memoria Press was one of the first homeschool curriculum companies I was introduced to, and even back then, I looked forward to being able to use their logic curriculum. For one reason or another, it hasn't happened.
Until now. The Crew has had the opportunity to review their Traditional Logic I Complete Set, includes a Student Guide, Teacher Guide, DVD's and Quizzes & Tests.
One thing I've loved about every Memoria Press product I've used is that they create a great, basic product without a lot of fluff. It is usually pretty easy to figure out how to use it. In the case of Traditional Logic I, there are fourteen chapters, plus an introduction, and each of those chapters tells you what to do for four days of work. There is also a quiz (or final exam) for all but one of the chapters, so that can be done on the fifth day of the week.
The materials don't explicitly tell you how to use the video, but what we have done is to watch the video lesson on the first day, instead of doing the day one assignment to "Peruse the entire chapter." The video lesson goes over all of the information in the chapter, so watching it and perusing the chapter is a bit redundant. Then we go on to carefully read the chapter, section by section, as directed in the daily exercises. On the fifth day, we re-watch the video lesson and take the quiz.
To use this with multiple students, you should purchase additional Student Books and additional Quizzes & Final Exam booklets. We do the daily assignments as a group discussion, but each of my teens did need their own set of quizzes.
Because I have a senior who is about to graduate, and he was very interested in taking this course, we did follow the suggestions in the introductory material to condense the course a bit. Instead of taking a full semester (one week per chapter, plus a week on the introduction), he recommends combining a couple of chapters into one week. Specifically, the recommendation is to combine chapters 4 & 5, 6 & 7, and 12 & 13. That cuts the course down to twelve weeks. (We still will not quite complete the course before Connor's scheduled graduation, but I told him that we don't have to finalize the transcript before the ceremony.)
Their reason for suggesting this is so you can spend more time in the second semester, Traditional Logic II, which is more difficult. We fully intend to move on to this program, but it will be with my two remaining high school students. Connor has asked if we could at least start it while he is still home, though.
Obviously, from all of that, you can assume that we've been liking our logic class! The course is broken down into three main sections:
The first three chapters are on Simple Apprehension (Term). These are the most abstract of the course, and I was happy to move into the next section. The idea here is that you are grasping a concept, understanding what something is. To use a classic example (used in the book as well), this is where you can hear the word "man" and understand that it is a person, and it represents all people who are alive now, have ever been alive, or ever will be.
Chapters 4-9 are on Judgment (Proposition). This is the longest section of the book, and this is where you are thinking something is something else, affirming or denying something. Going on with the example, this is saying "All men are mortal." You've stated that "man" is something else, in this case "mortal." Also, "Socrates is a man."
Chapters 10-13 are on Deductive Inference (Syllogism). We aren't this far yet, but from the introduction, we know that this is where you come to some sort of conclusion. You take the Propositions above, and conclude something new, that "Therefore, Socrates is mortal."
The teens have been enjoying the course. They like the systematic approach that takes us through classical logic step-by-step.
Go check out other Crew reviews to learn more! I've also been using D'Aulaires' Greek Myths and Book of Astronomy Set, but you'll need to go visit other blogs to see reviews of those. I will say that this is my second time through the Memoria Press Greek Myths set, though, and it is even better this time around!
I couldn't want to see what changes had been made, as this is a program I had purchased and used in the past. The changes are great.
The big question with this program for many would be, "With all the real school we need to do, why waste time memorizing poetry?"
That is a good question.
Included in this set are three ways to answer the question. My favorite is the DVD of Andrew Pudewa's "Nurturing Competent Communicators" presentation, but there is also written information in the Teacher's Manual, and one of the seven mp3 workshop downloads is a different presentation of "Nurturing Competent Communicators."
I always enjoy watching him speak, and "Nurturing Competent Communicators" is my favorite. I have stated numerous times over the past decade that this is a presentation every parent needs to see or hear. Regularly.
The basic idea is that you can't get something out of a child's brain that hasn't been put in there. You want a child to speak Chinese, you need to put Chinese in their brain. You want them to write coherently, using something resembling decent grammar and sentence structure? Then you need to be putting some "reliably correct and sophisticated English" into their brain somehow.
How do kids acquire language patterns today? The top sources would be television and other media, which doesn't tend to be a great source. I'll leave it at that. Another top source would be same-age peers, also not a great way to obtain sophisticated English. Interaction with parents and other "busy adults" ought to be a good source, but like Andrew said, how much of my day-to-day interaction with my children is filled with such great statements like, "Seriously, you lost the book AGAIN? And you have worn that shirt every day for THREE weeks! It could stand by itself now. Change. And take a shower. With soap. I mean it."
Reading ought to be a good source of great language, but most good readers read fast, and they aren't internalizing the sentence structure or the vocabulary.
So what does that leave? Andrew recommends, "Read out loud. Read out loud to children in huge quantity." That is something I strive to do, and fail at too often. Audiobooks are another recommendation. I have to add that in the DVD presentation, he recommended the book Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter. We started doing this as a family read-aloud, and everyone is loving it.
The other big thing he recommends is to memorize poetry, and to keep repeating it so they never forget it. You certainly can do that on your own... or if you just don't need one more thing to think about, purchasing this program is an incredible way to get started.
Okay, enough about the theory. How does this program work?
IEW has created four levels, containing 19 poems each. The 20th slot for each level is reserved for you (or your student) to choose a poem to memorize, and some great suggestions are given at each level. A fifth level (new to this version) includes 20 speeches (or portions of speeches).
At each level, you have a CD of Andrew Pudewa reciting the poems. You can also download the mp3 version of this, which is really convenient! There is also a pdf Student Book (that you can print for each student in your household -- love, love, love IEW's generous copyright policies!) that includes the text of the poems/speeches, pictures suitable for coloring for each poem in levels 1-2 and some of the level 3-4 poems, tracking sheets, completion certificates for each level, and some background information for each speech. You can see Trina working on the student page for the poem we just finished, At the Seaside by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Teacher's Manual includes introductory material that talks about why you ought to memorize poetry. Then you get into the actual poetry. As you work through the poems, there are often notes about the poems. For instance, our current poem is Rebecca, Who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably by Hilaire Belloc. There are notes in the teacher material explaining where Palace Green, Bayswater is, and explaining the expression, "Billy-Ho." There is also a note about how this poem is illustrated in Cautionary Tales for Children by Belloc, and noting a link to the public domain book.
The Teacher's Manual also includes some Lesson Enhancements. For Fog, the next poem we'll learn, there are suggestions to find examples of personification in the poem, to study Carl Sandburg, and to learn about fog. Other poems in Level Two include suggestions for literature (read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when learning Jabberwocky), music (watch a video of a specific Gilbert & Sullivan production when learning The Duke of Plaza-Toro), science, history (learn about the Crimean War while learning The Charge of the Light Brigade), government, etc. The lesson enhancements are completely optional, but I think it is very worthwhile to at least take a look at the literary devices and poetic elements sections, especially with older kids (upper elementary and up).
How are we using this?
We had memorized Level One quite some time ago. Trina was two or three, so it has been at least seven years. We started off by reviewing these nineteen poems, and I was truly surprised at how many of the poems Richard and Trina did remember. We spent a day each on all but the last couple, and one of the longer ones in the middle. Those we spent a couple days on.
We're now merrily working through Level Two. We start off by doing the scheduled review, and then we listen to the poem a couple of times through, with me commenting on any of the notes from the Teacher's Manual. We all recite it together a time or two, and we are done for the day.
The next day we review different poems, listen to the new one once, and recite it together a time or two. I talk about some of the lit aspects from the lesson plan, we recite it as a group again, and we are done.
As the kids start being more confident with the poem, I have them recite it without the CD, and without me. Usually someone is able to come up with the next words, even if not everyone knows them, and after a couple days, they are starting to sound pretty confident. I have the words in front of me so that I can prompt them, if necessary. But mostly I watch their faces to see how comfortable each of them seems to be. Once it appears they all know it, I ask if they are ready to move on. They are usually ready for the next one, and they do let me know. If I have doubts, I will make them recite individually. I'm also planning to do some of the other Lesson Enhancements, particularly with the elementary kids.
I highly recommend this program. The enhancements they've made in the new edition make it even better than it was before. I am scheduling a task for myself to listen or watch Nurturing Competent Communicators at least once a month, as I know I need the inspiration.
A comment that Andrew made on the DVD about memorizing music really struck home, as I grew up with a piano teacher who said the same thing to me. She didn't tell me to memorize the songs, she told me to "Learn it by heart."
I absolutely see the value in my children learning poetry by heart as well. The rhythm, the vocabulary, the humor, the way the poets use language -- it gets into my kids. Even the not-as-enthusiastic ones, as you can see in the video below:
I love that there is a combination of serious and light-hearted poems, short and long ones, and poetry with many different rhyming schemes, including no rhyming at all. I love that there are over 50 poets represented in the 76 poems, plus a few more in the suggested poems for that #20 personal selection.
I didn't even talk about the speeches, since we didn't get that far, but I love those selections too. We did start on the first one (Socrates' Apology, by Plato) as we are studying Plato right now. The high school students are, anyway. Not having the 4th and 6th graders do that. There are some other perfect selections too, including the Gettysburg Address, Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech, Reagan's Brandenburg Gate Speech, and some things that aren't exactly speeches, like the Preamble to the US Constitution.
After the twenty speeches (that are included in the CDs), there are another nearly-twenty speech suggestions, and over a dozen of Shakespeare's soliloquys.
This is a program that you can use for years, and it is well worth using.
You can see what other Crew Members had to say by clicking the banner below:
I was first introduced to the art curriculum put out by ARTistic Pursuits Inc. at a homeschool conference over a decade ago. I loved what I saw, but finances were tight and my oldest kids weren't all that enthused about art, so I put it on my "someday" list of things I wanted to try. One thing I distinctly remember about Brenda Ellis (who I spoke to at that booth) was how encouraged I felt when talking to her, even though I didn't purchase a thing.
These Sculpture Technique books are intended for grades 4+, which is perfect for me, as my youngest is a 4th grader. It seemed like a perfect time to try these particular books. What has been really fun is that we're doing an art co-op weekly, which involves nine kids ages 5-15. Doing this as a group has been phenomenal.
We started our sculpture experience with the Model book, in the very first unit which has us using putty in a variety of ways. The first project had the kids making small pieces by molding the putty a lot like they would any sort of clay. The next two projects involved building a form out of cardboard, paper, and masking tape, and then basically painting a thinner putty mixture over the form.
These projects were fun, especially once the moms figured out how to get the texture right. We had some pretty amazing projects, and some really great discussions in my family about static (non-moving) forms vs. forms that show movement.
Other sections in this book include one using clay, where there are four projects; and one on wool felting, where there are five projects.
The first two photos are of the project showing movement. The cross was molded like clay.
After working on the putty, we switched books and did the cardboard projects in the Construct book.
For the first project, we used trash. Cardboard boxes of various sorts, some of which we peeled to reveal the corrugated parts, some of which was used just as it was.
The very first project is talking about planes -- so they were assembling flat shapes on a background of either paper or cardboard.
In the photos here, you can see Trina assembling different sized and colored rectangles, Richard cutting out a circle, Thomas helping one of the 5-year-olds, and the figure that Thomas created.
The second project had us going 3D by creating forms. For that, we did purchase corrugated paper in solids and prints. The younger kids understood the concepts, and with help they were able to assemble some solid shapes.
The third project, which we'll be doing on Wednesday, has them constructing an architectural model. My 15-year-old is plotting just what he is going to do.
Other sections in this book include making paper (4 projects), doing papier-mâché (2 projects), and finally wire sculpture (3 projects).
One thing we are really loving about this is that all of my kids are able to work on the projects, from my fairly artistic 15-year-old, to the "I'll do art if you make me" 12-year-old, to the enthusiastic 10-year-old. They've all done well, and they are grasping the concepts. We've enjoyed looking at the examples in the book, which aren't exactly art history but they ARE some great examples of fairly modern art.
I think this book would be fabulous for families like mine, where you have kids in multiple age ranges -- elementary, middle school and high school. The projects are doable for younger ages than the 4th grade level that is recommended, especially if they have help. I don't have too many subjects where I can have everyone work together anymore, but the Sculpture books from ARTistic Pursuits are one area where we could do that.
Other folks on the Crew reviewed the sculpture books, and some of the regular series. Go check them out!
A while back, I received The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider. The idea sounded fantastic. We love Mexican food here, and I absolutely love slow cooker recipes. This seemed perfect.
It is a wonderful cookbook, with some pretty amazing recipes in it. I'm far from an expert in authentic Mexican cuisine, but this does seem to be more Mexican, and less American-Mexican.
For me, though, a lot of that is a downside.
Almost all of the recipes take a lot of prep work, and involve more time than I generally have available to me.
For instance, one amazing recipe is for Sopa de Elote y Calabaza. You are starting with fresh sweet corn, cutting the kernels off the cobs, which is fine. Then you get out a skillet and melt butter to cook the corn, onion and coriander. You add that to the slow cooker, and add a bunch of other ingredients, including the corn cobs.
After it cooks for six hours, you remove the cobs, stir in epazote leaves, and serve.
That is one of the easiest recipes in the book, that dirties the fewest pans. It is good stuff.
The publisher describes the book this way:
A collection of 55 fix it and forget it
recipes for Mexican favorites from an award-winning Mexican cooking
authority, in a stylish, engaging package.
chef and cookbook author Deborah Schneider discovered that using her
trusty slow cooker to make authentic Mexican recipes actually enhanced
their flavor while dramatically reducing active cooking time, it was a
revelation. Packed with Schneider’s favorite south-of-the-border recipes
such as Tortilla Soup, Zesty Shredded Beef (Barbacoa), famed Mole
Negro, the best tamales she has ever made, and more, The Mexican Slow Cooker delivers
sophisticated meals and complex flavors, all with the ease and
convenience that have made slow cookers enormously popular.
The sophisticated meals part seems accurate, but "fix it and forget it" doesn't seem quite right.
If you are looking for a cookbook where you can dump a bunch of
ingredients into a slow cooker and more or less forget about it until
dinner, this is not your book. If you have a bit more time and love real Mexican food, this could be a great fit.
My kids love "doing art." I detest the mess. Somehow, art projects always seem to turn into paint on clothes, paint on furniture, and a dumped container (or two) of paint-y water on the carpet. And stiff brushes hiding somewhere.
It's getting better now that my kids are getting older, and we do end up with more art projects happening lately. I was really intrigued by the Kwik Stix 12 pk that came up for review from the Schoolhouse Review Crew, though. Was it going to be too babyish for my 10-year-old? Or did The Pencil Grip, Inc. really have a product that would work for upper elementary kids who want no-mess art?
I'm thrilled to report that we've had oh-so-much fun with the Kwik Stix. In addition to the fairly normal colors shown here, we also received Kwik Stix Neons and a Kwik Stix Metalix Pac.
Trina loved these. When I asked her to bring me some samples so I could take photos for the review, she brought me a folder filled with her paintings. She struggled to narrow it down to just a couple projects.
The green pen on the cover here shows you how these work. They look like a fat marker. You take the cap off, twist if you need to, and you can just color the tempera paint onto your paper (or cardboard, or coffee filters, or...) Put the cap back on, and wait about 30 seconds for the paint to dry.
That is all there is to it.
We've used these paints to make a poster for a fundraiser for American
Heritage Girls. We've used them to decorate cardboard. We used them on
coffee filters to make flowers. Unfortunately, I only got a photo of
that project in progress (the bottom right in the montage here).
Mostly, the paints have come out when Trina wants to draw something, and I don't want a mess.
As you can see from the examples she chose, you can do bold, strong colors. These work great for bold strokes, but you can get some finer lines too.
Another really cool product they offer is implied in the company name. The Pencil Grip. We received a sample of a pencil grip -- those little plastic things you put on the end of a pen or pencil, to help kids learn how to hold the pencil correctly.
I think we would have loved these a few years ago, but at this point, it isn't something we really need. This is a quality grip, though, and seems sturdier (and easier for ME to hold) than others I tried in the past.
Go, check them out. This is something I will repurchase as we do use these up. Not that we seem to have made a dent in the paint yet.