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May 29, 2014

E is for Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm means feeling intense enjoyment, eagerness, energy, passion.

Enthusiasm is NOT apathy, disinterest, coldness.

Enthusiasm is one of the word studies I managed to complete last fall, so I looked back on my notes from that.  I found this great post about being full of God.  "So practice enthusiasm. Stop saying the depressing things. Stop saying the discouraging things, the hateful things, the negative things, the critical things. Think enthusiasm! Talk it, live it, pray it, act it! And you will keep enthusiasm going for you every day."  I really enjoyed it and I pray you will read it as well. 

My self talk has overflowed my brain and runs out of my mouth.  It isn't pretty.

Lord, place your hand over my mouth.  Support me when I am weak.  May my family be blessed by my actions and words.  Amen.

Ben and Me

May 28, 2014

What on Earth Can I Do? ~ An Apologia Review

Apologia Educational Ministries helps parents teach their children, using a Christian lens with classes in Bible, sciences, apologetics, and worldview.  We're familiar with several of the elementary science courses and have really enjoyed using them.  The What We Believe series has been on my short list for quite a while.  I was very happy to receive this review for book 4 in the What We Believe series.

Apologia Review

This volume teaches children to be good stewards of all God has provided and helps them discover where they fit in His story.  I received the following books for review.
What on Earth Can I Do? textbook $39
This hardcover text is about 300 pages, with a sturdy binding to last your family for many years.  It is written at a 5-6th grade reading level.  Older students can simply work through the text on their own while younger students will need a parent or older sibling to help complete the work.  Each lesson includes parables, short biographies of notable people, applying each lesson in your own life, a prayer and a memory verse,and more.  The first few lessons use World War II as the focus for many of these.

Passwords to access online materials are found inside Apologia's textbooks.  These resources include teacher helps for each lesson, which consist of memory verses, book lists for extended learning, vocabulary, and a synopsis, suggested activities, and discussion starters for each section of the lesson.  You'll find a guide for the coloring book connecting each of the 64 coloring pages to a section of the textbook.  There's also a picture of the steps to complete the House of Truth, which is fully covered in the complete What We Believe series.  A Notebooking Journal sample is also located there.  Hopefully, soon a Jr. Notebooking Journal sampler will be added.

What on Earth Can I Do? Notebooking Journal $24
A spiral bound journal of 236 pages, for ages 9-14

What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal $24,
(Excited!)  This one is spiral bound and 184 pages.  For ages 6-9, or those with limited writing skills.

Each Notebooking Journal begins with a very thorough How To Use This Book section, which gives clear instruction for each of the lesson assignments.  These books consist of detailed lesson plans/schedules, which breaks the text into 48 chunks, followed by plenty of assignments and activities to help reinforce the ideas in each lesson.  A Find Out More section, at the end of each lesson, lists other resources such as books, movies, and songs.

Most of the Bible verses for copywork in the journals use the NIV.  Other translations are sometimes referred to in an attempt to make the language more accessible to younger children.  You can certainly use whichever version your family is used to studying.

Prep time is minimal, depending on your child's age and abilities.  My boys were perfectly capable of cutting out their booklets and other things on their own and assembling.  Each book in the What We Believe series will take approximately four to eight months to work through, taking two to three weeks on each lesson.  An sample schedule is included in each of the notebooking journals.

What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book, $8
Paperback, with 64 images to color.  Several pictures can be colored during each lesson.

For grades 1-6, and ages 6-14.

Lessons include
  • The Big Idea - an introduction to the main topic.
  • What You Will Do - the objectives of the lesson.
  • Short Story - to provide students an opportunity to see worldview in action.
  • Think About It - comprehension-type questions for the short story segment.
  • Words You Need To Know - relevant vocabulary to prepare students to express their faith.
  • Hide It in Your Heart -  Bible verses for memory or copywork.  One expresses the Big Idea and one to introduce a particular character trait.
  • Integrated Learning - articles tying the lesson to art, science, history, etc.
  • What Should I Do? - practicing godly character traits.
  • Prayer - acknowledging and thanking God for all He does.
  • Parables of Jesus - based on a parable taught by Jesus which expands into a full story with cultural details and told from one personal perspective.
  • Going Deeper - discussion questions regarding the parable.
  • House of Truth - the final House of Truth lessons from the complete What We Believe series.

How What on Earth Can I Do? looks in our home.
I love that we can complete this series on Christian worldview as a family.  A broad range of ages can be accommodated simply by choosing the appropriate notebooking journal or coloring book for each child.

I had Malachi working in the Notebooking Journal and Xavier in the Junior Notebooking Journal.  Both boys have colored in the coloring book on different days.  We followed the sample schedule in the journals at first and realized there are several days in each lesson that were just too much reading for my boys to sit and listen to at once.  I broke these assignments into two (and even three) days.  This worked much better.

Malachi was able to complete the crossword puzzles and create mini-books, write vocabulary and copywork, and think through some of the assignments with no trouble, but he is not an enthusiastic writer.  I would talk over the Think About It segments with both boys and let them dictate their answers to me.

We found the Junior Notebooking Journal to be a very good fit for Xavier, with slightly simplified lessons and more drawing  and coloring than the Notebooking Journal.  As I  look at it and think about it more, I think it isn't quite challenging enough for Malachi.  At nine years old, he is just at that in-between stage here.  I was very grateful for the chance to compare the two journals side by side to determine the fit for us.

My children are learning to apply God's Word to real life.  Even though, this series is about worldview, I can see how geography, history, and art can all be easily tied into these lessons. 

Even though these books can be used in any order or stand alone, we are setting this aside and starting fresh in the fall with the first book in the series, Who is God?.  I'd like to bring What on Earth Can I Do? back out around the time we start covering World War II in history.  Mal would surely be ready for the regular notebooking journal then.

If you haven't received the Apologia homeschooling catalog yet and are interested in the products they sell, order one right away.  You'll find coupon codes for freebies (with purchase) or discounts for each quarter.

Apologia Educational Ministries on Social Media


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May 24, 2014

D is for Diligent

Well, wouldn't you know "Diligent" would be the first post I didn't get up by Friday evening?  Kind of laughable, if not so sad.

Being diligent means being conscientious (or caring) about one's duties, being careful, thorough, and hard working.  Diligence is *not* being careless, neglectful, or lazy.

Diligence is also a struggle around here.  Well, for everyone but Micah.  He is the hardest worker I know and he always does a great job on everything, never halfway, never until it's just good enough.  The rest of us, on the other hand are not the hardest workers.  We don't "start hard and finish strong (We Choose Virtues)."  I leave a trail of half-completed projects.  The boys have a half-cleaned room.  There is always more housework.  Always.

Lord, supply our souls with a healthy dose of diligence.  Help us do more than we can think or ask or imagine.  Amen.

Ben and Me

May 20, 2014

THMJ Week of 5/4/14

    In my life this week…
We continued our travels this week, returning home on Wednesday.  Spent Thursday unpacking and getting ready for Friday School. 

   In our homeschool this week…
We're still on vacation, so we aren't doing a lot of book work.

    In our homeschool co-op this week... 
Magic School Bus Science- Magic Schoolbus Goes to Seed.  We planted sunflowers in pots (from the Target Dollar Spot) and put morning glories in a baggie with a paper towel and a bit of water.  I showed them my apple seeds that had sprouted in a baggie.
Wiggles and Giggles - Merrick went to the nursery.
Duct Tape Art- Mal made a bank out of a tissue box and covered a frame with tape.
Amazing Body - Mal was given this "AMAZING" shirt, made by Miss Trish.
Nature - Xav got to collect creatures on a nature walk.  He found an acorn "that still has its hat on."  The class put their treasures in a jar terrarium.
Arts and Crafts - Xav made a mother's day "thing" (his word).
Archery - Xav got to use the bow and arrow, but was disappointed that he didn't get to go outside because it was too windy! 

    In Rangers this week... 
No Rangers

    What we're reading... 
Dad emailed a recording of himself, reading the last chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

    The picture I didn't take, but should have...
Merrick happily stomping in the puddle at Kristi's.

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Sunday - Saige's Birthday Party
I so wanted to visit some of my favorite non-family people this trip.  I messaged them and got myself and the boys an invite to my favorite ten year old girl's birthday party.  This way, I got to see the whole family.  Xav, of course, fell in love.  He always does when they are ten.  At one point, Xav asked, "Where did that beautiful birthday girl go?"  When she heard, she spit on the ground as if to show him she was no beautiful girl.  I love those kids!  Elaine got Mal to warm right up to her.  They went for a little walk together... straight to the trampoline!  Merrick climbed on the playset and Xav joined Mal on the trampoline.  And, oh my goodness! the conversations about cows!  We *live* in dairy country.  You'd think the boys had never seen or heard cows before to hear them talk.

Merrick stealing Kait's soda.  She *barely* even noticed!
Monday - maze bridge and lunch
We crossed Corning's maze bridge, which I had hoped might take a bit of time.  Unfortunately, they literally figured it out in seconds and were through it in a minute.  The bigger littles went back and forth a few times.  We popped through the Corning Museum of Glass shop on the way to Corning Inc's Decker building, hoping to see another friend, but she wasn't available.  Merrick had zero interest in walking a single step further.  Well, he pretty much had zero interest in walking all stinking day.  We grabbed the "honeycomb" bus (which is actually CMoG's bus that runs around Corning taking people from parking lots to the Glass Museum and the Rockwell Museum of Western Art and historic Market Street and back to the parking lots) and took it back to the other side of town then headed to Bob Evans for lunch.  Mal thought the sign was Bab Evens.

Tuesday - Ithaca Science Center
This science center in Ithaca, NY is INCREDIBLE!  I'm writing a field trip post all about it.  Don't worry.  Merrick was only unhappy until we got inside!

 Heading home...
Single lane of traffic in Binghamton.  Speed limit 45.  Or zero.

Lunch at the rest area where I realized I left all our bread at Mom's.  But we had fruit and chips.

Saw three helicopters.

The eggs seemed surprised to see me at home.

    Things Dad is working on...
The house.  In secret.  While no one was there to interfere.  This is kind of what the boys came home to, except it was neater when we got back!

    In the yard...
Micah and the boys made the most of the day Saturday, before we headed out again on Mother's Day.  Two raised beds and all the dirt to fill them had to be moved closer to the house.  There was lots of "help."

Xav surprised Micah with a mid-afternoon picnic for the two of them.  Micah kindly took a break to spend some 1:1 time with him.  I think someone missed Dad.  The cat came over and had to butt in. 

The chickens got to run around free for the first time.  Some boys need to learn not to chase them.  (I will be so glad when those bushes start to look spring-like.)

    Out of the mouths of boys... 
On Saturday, Xav was asking what we were going to do.  Micah told Mal and Xav that he and I had decided on double school since they had been on vacation for so long.  Xav said, "No! We can't.  Today is the Sabbath!  No one can work on the Sabbath."  Apparently, the whole weekend is now a work free zone.

    This week's reviews...
Schoolhouse Review Crew Maestro Classics (including my own)
Schoolhoouse Review Crew Logic of English (including my own)

May 17, 2014

THMJ Week of 4/27/14

    In my life this week…
We're visiting all the grands in NY this week.  The boys are having a great time.  I took a van load of loot to rummage sale day in my dad's town.  It was very nice to make some money and get rid of some of our stuff.  And I have *never* seen this much traffic there.

    In our homeschool this week…
Vacation started mid-week.  We brought some school books, memory verses, and such.  I admit, we've not really had the time or inclination to use any of it.

    In our homeschool co-op this week... 
No school this week.  CFS took a field trip to Green Mountain Coffee, but we weren't home to go.

    In Rangers this week... 
No Rangers meeting this week.  They participated in a COTS walk instead.  The punks and I were out of town.

    What we're reading... 
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  And then we left for vacation.

    In the yard... 
When Micah moved the hen house, two escaped.  They were quick to go back in when dinner time rolled around.

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We had awful weather for the long trip.  I drove through lots of rain!

Grandma and Poppa of the Forest - we stayed there Wednesday and Thursday night.  The boys couldn't wait to take all the big toys out and dig in the mud!  Xav was super excited to play with his cousin Nathan.  Apparently Ryan was dreading a visit with Mal as much as Mal was hoping to avoid Ry.  Noah is getting big.  And adorable.
My nap buddy...

Grandma Jeannie and Papa Toonie - we were there for a few hours Friday and then all day Saturday.  It was kind of dreary out.  Saturday was rummage sale day!  Mal got a terrific book about steam trains.  Xav found a mitt and a small vehicle building set at the sales.  Saw my sisters and their kids, but didn't get to see my great-niece or my brother and his family on this trip.
Giving BooBear a ride down Papa Toonie's ramp.  Wheeeeee!

Grandma Char and Grandpa Bob - staying here the rest of the trip.  Merrick got to sleep in a toddler bed.  He only rolled out a couple of times!  There were new scooters for Mal and Xav along with all of Grandma's usual trains.  And the TV.  I can see the weaning off the TV when we get home isn't going to make anyone happy.  We're hearing lots of trains, but haven't seen any except those sitting at the depot. 

Not my favorite part - chipped windshield.

    Things Dad is working on...
Top secret stuffs in the boys' room while we are out of the house. 

    Out of the mouths of boys...
Malachi watching The Rescuers, regarding Medusa.
I hate that woman.  She has a temper like Queen Jezebel!

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
What's in the Bible? video six trailer.  Jezebel starts around 1:00.

    This week's reviews... 
Schoolhouse Review Crew Artistic Pursuits
Schoolhouse Review Crew The Brinkman Adventures (including mine)

May 16, 2014

C is for Contentment

Well, here we are on week three and I scheduled Contentment for C.  I thought this would be a simple post to write.  As I've thought more about contentment and what it means and how I've felt, I realized this would be a somewhat difficult, maybe even painful, post to write.

What does it mean to be content?  It means being satisfied with what you have, not wanting anything more.  We Choose Virtues calls it having your "wanter" under control.  What is it not?  It is not being greedy, begging, restless.

Xav's love language is gifts.  He loves presents, getting them certainly, but also giving them.  He really enjoys getting "stuff."  But if you indulge that desire in him, is he content with what he has?  Unfortunately, no.  He would like more stuff, please.  He will buy his own stuff, OK?

Mal is a little different.  I am not sure what his love language is.  Or, as I call it, his currency.  He doesn't want tons of things, but if there is one thing he does want, he obsesses over it until he gets it or he finds something else to latch onto.  He is like a bulldog.  Currently, he is saving money for a Lego train he just has to have.  Forget that he has three Lego trains.  Forget that he has dozens of trains.  He wants this one train and is willing to save for it.

Do you know what I wanted to be when I grew up?  I wanted to be a wife and mother.  That's it.  I'll take a husband and one dozen children, please.  I worked diligently through high school with that goal in mind.  I took secretarial classes; typing, shorthand, business math (If you took the Way Back Machine to the early 80s, you'd see that we only had to take one high school math class.  You wouldn't catch me dead in a "fake math" class like algebra or statistics.  What on earth would a young lady need that for anyway?) solely because you had to have a focus of some sort in your classes.  And I could always fall back on that stuff, if I didn't get married for a year or two after school.  But I took lots of classes to prepare myself to be a mommy; childcare, cooking, sewing.  I was going to be the best dang mommy EVER!

My plans never quite worked out for the longest time.

The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.
~Robert Burns

Hop back in the Way Back Machine and come back to the present.  I have a terrific husband (like the best ever in the whole wide world!), and I have four sons whom I love very much.  And I have a lot of anger, a lot of self-pity, a LOT of discontent.  There is a part that is searching for something more.  There is a part that is never quite happy.  My brain knows that only God can fill those needs.  But I still keep wanting, searching, and hoping.  Hey, God!  There's a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you!  (What can I say, I'm a child of the 80s/young woman of the 90s.)

How do you reconcile what's in your head and what's in your heart?

Ben and Me

May 14, 2014

Heroes and Heroines ~ A Golden Prairie Press Review

Author and homeschool graduate, Amy Puetz (pronounced Pitts) is the owner of Golden Prairie Press.  She seems to have a passion for history and likes to show how God's hand was at work at many points throughout it.  Amy wrote and compiled Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum.  I received this review opportunity through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
$98.99 for the complete package.
For grades 1-6.

Golden Prairie Press Review

Heroes and Heroines of the Past American History Parts 1 and 2
These PDF books are ginormous.  Part one is 388 pages and part two is a whopping 408 pages.  While a lot of the text is broken up into the two grade levels, much of it is suitable for both levels.  Each of the 30 week-long lessons is well laid out with readings first followed by questions and various activities.  The suggested activities are mostly included right in the curriculum components and you're directed where to find them amongst all the resources you'll be downloading.  Answer keys are at the back of each book.

Historical Skits ebook
This fifty page PDF contains nineteen short skits covering from Columbus in 1492 to life at home in 1942.  The scenes have anywhere from 2-9 characters to bring history to life.

Sing Some History CD
Twenty historical songs are included on this CD download.

Listen to Some US History MP3 CD
A collection of twenty speeches, poems, sermons, and documents are read on this CD download.

Additional Materials Downloads
This download contains the timeline pages, historical art, and other fun additions like the George Washington snake game we played.

You do not need these books, but you might like to have them.  I was surprised to find that I actually had a couple of them in my hard drive.  You never know when some freebie or other you download might come in handy!
  • Ten Great Adventurers by Kate Dickinson Sweetser, Edited by Amy Puetz
  • Ten Girls from History by Kate Dickinson Sweetser, Edited by Amy Puetz
  • Heroines of the Past: Bible Study by Amy Puetz
  • Two Little Americans in Spanish California by Frances Margaret Fox
  • Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott
There is also an optional Heroes & Heroines coloring book to help keep little hands busy while you read.

How we used Heroes & Heroines of the Past...
I lean a bit more toward unit studies and immersion for many subjects.  This year, most of our American history studies have been about the American Revolution.  I had sections 8-11 printed at the local copy center and spiral bound them at home.  I also had the George Washington snake game and the American Revolution Timeline page printed.

The majority of the reading sections are divided into 1st-2nd grade (1 page) and 3rd-6th grade (2-4 pages).  After looking it over, I decided the boys wouldn't have any real trouble comprehending the extended information, but their attention spans might mean reading and discussing the lesson over two days.  We do the lessons of three or more pages in two days.  Anything shorter than that, we cover in one day.  Some of the lessons are actually 1st-6th grade, so I really didn't do anything different on those days.  Those reading sections are broken down into smaller topics, some of which are only a paragraph or two.  This made it easy to break up the lesson whenever we wanted.

At the end of the lesson there were questions to discuss and writing topics.  We do plenty of writing, so we didn't use most of these, though sometimes we used the topics as discussion points.  A variety of other activities often followed these.
  • Timeline
  • Songs
  • Games
  • Literature
  • Recipes (including invisible ink!)
  • Geography
  • Dictation or copywork
  • Historical art
  • Memory verse (We didn't use these because we are memorizing verses for co-op and Rangers.)
  • Act it out (from Historical Skits), and more
That looks like a lot, but since these activities were not all in every lesson, it didn't take a long time to complete.  

The first song in this section was Liberty Song.  The words and music are in the text as well as a little history about the song.  The song is five verses long, so I got to show the boys how to read a song with verses.  We listened to Liberty Song on the Sing Some History CD download.  Next, we read the lyrics and discussed the meaning of the song.

We made a small pan of tea biscuits (half batch) using one of the included recipes.

Playing the snake game was simple and took little time.  It was similar to chutes and ladders.  If you landed on a space with a star, you were either sent ahead, sent back, or lost a turn.  I just found three different buttons as tokens and used the die from another game.  Unfortunately, I was reminded there are some boys who need to practice good sportsmanship.

It just dawned on Xav that after all his gloating about being ahead, he was not going to win.
The literature suggestions were for 5th-6th graders, but we did read some of them, as I had a couple of the books.  And the Listen to Some History CD download included famous speeches like Patrick Henry's infamous "Give me liberty or give me death!" and a reading of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

The art in this section included the Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull.  One thing I liked about this piece was the accompanying line drawing which labeled each of the people in attendance at the signing.  Throughout the text, many unfamiliar names, towns, and other words were followed by a pronunciation guide.  I've used some unit studies or curriculum that did not have that and I'm left to stumble over words, unsure if I've just misled the boys.  Little touches like these really make a difference.

Amy Puetz encourages the use of extra-curriculars as well.  We added Liberty's Kids videos whenever one seemed to suit the subject.

We've been learning about the American Revolution all year, but I think using this curriculum and looking back at what we have already covered is helping to make things stick.  There is plenty of reinforcement of the lesson through the activities and literature.  The boys understand more about the events as seen through the individual people.  We'll be turning to this curriculum again and again as we continue to work our way through American history.  I love that this can be worked through over the course of a year or used again and again to bolster our current topic.


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That's Absurd! - A Logic of English Review

While reading came easy to me and spelling wasn't really difficult, I still have trouble knowing how to pronounce and spell some words.  The English language is tricky.  I learned sight words with Dick and Jane, as well as "sounding out" words in the early grades.  Far too often, words with an irregular spelling were labeled an exception to the rule.  There were a LOT of exceptions.  I found myself telling the boys the same thing when they asked why something was spelled a certain way.  I didn't like not having the answer.  Along came Logic of English.  We received the manuscript version of Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

When Essentials arrived at our door in a big, heavy box, I was quite surprised!  It was packed full of cards and books. 

Students ages seven to adult will learn to read, spell, and write using Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set ($243).  Essentials is available in manuscript or cursive.  The lessons are scripted for those like me who sometimes struggle with knowing exactly how best to explain a concept.

Logic of English Review
The Teacher's Manual ($95, if purchased separately) This is a beefy, hard bound textbook of over 500 pages.  The beginning of this manual is an invaluable resource that includes suggested schedules based on age, reading and spelling ability, and even ESL students.  An expansive Before You Begin section explains how to teach the word parts, sound awareness, and an explanation for teaching cursive first.  The third section instructs how to teach the lessons.  The lesson and this explanatory section are broken into three parts as well as optional activities.  The last part of the introduction is a resource of spelling rules, phonograms, and grammar.  There are forty lessons in all.  Every fifth lesson is a review lesson.

Essentials Student Workbook in Manuscript ($25)
There is no text and very little instruction in the workbook, nothing to clutter up pages and distract students.  Each section of the lesson is numbered and paired with just a single line of instruction.  If there is any further instruction necessary, it can be found in the Teacher's Manual.  This paperback book is 480 pages, making each lesson an average of twelve worksheet pages long.
Spelling Journal ($8)
This 72-page paperback journal is a sort of self-made spelling reference.  Each sound and its various spellings has a section in the book for the student to write words they have discovered.  A reference in the front makes it easy to locate each section.  A list of spelling rules and a phonogram reference chart are included in the booklet.

Basic Phonogram Flash Cards ($18)
This card pack teaches the 74 basic phonograms of the English language.  The sturdy cards are a large size.  One side shows the letter or phonogram and the other lists the sound(s) it makes, *in the order of frequency,* and examples of words using each of the sounds.  With this deck, 98% of English words can be decoded.

Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards ($15)
An extra 35 phonogram cards are included in this pack, which is similar to the Basic cards.  In this set, more of the sounds are borrowed from foreign languages.  The language of origin is included in addition to the other phonogram information.

Spelling Rule Flash Cards ($15)
I like rules.  I like knowing the why.  This card deck teaches the thirty spelling rules that, along with the Basic Phonogram deck, help decode 98% of English words.  The rule is listed on one side with example words on the back.  This is what I never learned in school and the reason I like Logic of English Essentials so much.  Now, very few words are the exception.  Almost all of them are covered by some spelling rule or other.  These cards make me happy.
Grammar Rule Flash Cards ($22)
This deck answers questions like, What's a predicate noun? and Should I use a comma there?  Rules or definitions are on one side of the card and examples are on the flip side.  83 cards.

Game Book ($15)
The Phonogram and Spelling Game Book is a 96 page paperback.  This resource is chock full of games and ideas.  There has to be something for everyone here.
  1. Card games  This is where we found Malachi's favorite, Dragon!  
  2. Active games  
  3. Other phonogram games, like Bingo and Beat the Clock
  4. Drills
  5. Sensory Practice
  6. Spelling Card Games
  7. Active Spelling Games
  8. Creative and Tactile Spelling Practice
  9. Spelling Games, like word searches and crosswords.
  10. Appendix A has templates for the activities and 
  11. Appendix B is where you'll find the necessary Bingo and tic tac toe boards.
Game Card decks ($10 each, two recommended)
Two decks are recommended for some of the card games, like dragon, go fish, and memory.  These decks are much smaller than the flash card decks.  They are available in cursive, manuscript, and bookface.  They include phonogram cards and game-type cards like rotten egg, draw 2, and snatch it  I received bookface and manuscript cards with my review.

Phonogram and Spelling Rule Quick Reference Chart ($10)
When open, this chart is about the size of three sheets of paper wide.  It's made of sturdy, but not laminated, card stock.  I consider this the all-in-one easy reference chart for phonograms sounds and spellings, spelling rules, and a flow chart to determine how to add a suffix to any word. 

How it looks in our home...

We are not using an exact schedule with Malachi.  Just like everything we do in our homeschool, we just keep plugging along, accomplishing what we can.  Usually, one lesson takes him about three days to cover.  Once I think I've lost him for the day, we take our "official" post-it notes and put them in the spot where we left off.  Some parts are completed orally, owing to Mal's writing struggles.  If he starts a section in writing, though, he will not stop until it's completed.  He has been attentive and is really learning the material.  I see a sparkle in his eyes sometimes that makes me happy inside.  He enjoys showing his dad what he's learning.

Essentials is quite an intensive program, covering phonograms, spelling, and grammar with each lesson.  It requires a lot of hands on parent involvement.  Except when Malachi was writing, I was completely enmeshed in the process.  To prepare for the next lesson, I just flip through the Teacher's Manual while he is writing in the current workbook lesson and pull out all the cards we will need.  I may take a look through the optional activities to decide which ones we will do, but usually I just make the call at the time we get to it.  I'm never sure at what point we will end a lesson and we're more likely to use the optional suggestions at the beginning of a session than at the end when Malachi is already growing tired of sitting and cooperating.

Malachi is really interested in sound awareness.  He likes feeling his throat and his jaw when he speaks and counting syllables.  Actually, I thought these sections would also be beneficial for working with Xavier on his speech.  We start almost every session of Essentials with phonograms, covering each one he's learned to date.  Mal reviews the parts of speech he is learning and the current spelling rules at least weekly.

Each lesson goes differently for us and how much we can accomplish each day varies, but here's an example of Malachi moving through a lesson.
Lesson 4
Day 1:
Part 1. We opened with the basic phonogram flash cards, then I just work my way through the TM.  I introduce the new spelling rule and show him card #3, then he learns four new phonograms.  At first, I was concerned there were too many new phonograms in each lesson, but he gets them all quickly and they are reinforced nearly every day when we look over the flash cards.  He learns how the sounds feel in his mouth and throat.  Then we discuss how each phonogram is used, whether it appears at the beginning, middle, or end of a word, and any other information needed about the phonogram.  He writes the new phonograms in his workbook, then writes twenty that he previously knew that I've dictated to him.  He played a board game in his workbook.  What makes a consonant or a vowel is reviewed, then we talk about the new consonants. There is an optional practice box.  He completed one of the three activities (the one in his workbook).  Next, we looked at the spelling rule and why a says /ā/ or /ä/.  This is when I started to lose Malachi's attention and I should have stopped at this section, but that day we kept working and stopped when that was done.  He marked in his workbook the As that say /ä/.
Day 2:
Part 1. I should have gone back and reviewed the previous section, but I chose not to since he has been getting most of what we've done so far and the next lesson is review anyway.  So we pick up with the AI spelling of long a and he writes the spellings in his workbook, review which spelling is most commonly used in the end of a syllable, middle of a syllable, and end of a word.  Optional spelling journal and rule practice follows.  I skipped those activities since we ran over into two days for part 1.
Part 2. Spelling list.  Teacher tips for a few of the spelling words, spelling test.  He wanted to mark the nouns and adjectives that day even though it's a day 3 activity.  I let him.
Day 3:
Part 3. Grammar.  Review noun.  Introduce article adjectives.  Study the article adjectives card.  Using article adjectives, determine which words in the spelling list are nouns.  Identify nouns, adjectives, and article adjectives in phrases in the workbook.  Vocabulary development.  Using suffixes -er and -est.  He wrote a lot for him in vocabulary development, so we stopped here since the next two very short activities both required writing.

The card containment issue was troubling.  Since the larger cards are an odd size (4.5"x6"), it was a bit more difficult to find a suitable case for them all.  For weeks, I just bundled them with a rubber band for each set of cards as well as a current set for the lesson (marked by another handy sticky note).  I found this nifty box at Dollar Tree while visiting in NY.  You can see the small card game decks in the front.  We  mostly use them for Mal's favorite game, Dragons.  Normally, he doesn't enjoy games and needs a little coaxing.  Dragons has managed to find a place in his heart.  It probably didn't hurt that Grandma was visiting at the beginning of this review term and played it with us.  Grandmas rock!  I've already had to swap out the dragon card in the game because Mal chewed a tiny corner of the first card we used and I could tell which card was the dragon.  I don't think he was even aware of it, but it's best to level the playing field with these punks.

There was a typo or two on the phonogram dictation.  Here I was reading the *sounds* to Mal and he needed to write the phonogram (here in lesson one, it was a letter).  X does not say X. X says /ks/ or sometimes /z/.  This is the only thing I noticed in five lessons, though.

 All in all, I am seriously considering grabbing a workbook for Xavier and putting Mal on hold until I can get him caught up.

Phonics with Phonograms App: age 4 to adult
I received this app for my iPhone.  I'm always looking for educational alternatives for the boys when they want to borrow my phone.  I was able to add each boy as a user, even Merrick just for fun.  There are ten levels, covering 74 phonograms.  Just like in the textbook, new phonograms are introduced as the child progresses.  I just let Mal lose with the app from time to time.  This one was helpful on the rare instance I wasn't exactly sure how to pronounce a sound (those pesky regional dialects) because my mind didn't see a word fitting the phonogram it was being used with.  It the woman's voice in the app is pleasant and clear.  They simply listen to the sound and select the "card" that shows the phonogram.  If they're wrong, the tile is shaded and they are able to try again.  There's a screen which shows which phonograms were answered correctly the first time and which were wrong or unanswered.  The incorrect choices made are also on that screen.  This is a simple game with no bells and whistles.  It gets the job done and review is fun and easy to do on their own.  

Logic of English Review

Social Media for Logic of English (I highly recommend their YouTube channel!)

The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewers also reviewed Rhythm of Handwriting, Foundations Levels A, B, and C, and the Doodling Dragons app.  See these reviews by clicking the graphic below.

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May 9, 2014

B is for Bitterness

We all have had experiences in our lives that leave us bitter and resentful.  Even after we feel like we've let go of the hurts and have forgiven and sometimes even forgotten, something brings it back to our minds and we suffer for it all over again.  Anger and discontent can cause so much pain in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones.

I'm not referring to a bitter taste, obviously, but the kind of grievous sorrow which leads us to feel intense hatred toward a person or circumstance.  Satan uses that bitterness to gain a foothold in our hearts.  If we cannot freely forgive (even when the wrong-doer hasn't properly asked us to forgive), and we hold onto the pain and sorrow a root of bitterness takes hold and grows.  We are commanded to forgive as God forgives us.

Luke 17:3-4 (KJV)
3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, 
forgive him.  4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day 
turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. 

Choose to forgive and release your bitterness.  Work through your pain and resolve to forgive every circumstance you can think of.  Give it over to God.  Prayer and His love can be great comforts.  Determine to practice loving others, and not because they "deserve" it.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (KJV)
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, 
be put away from you, with all malice:  32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, 
forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Ben and Me

May 8, 2014

Play On! - A Maestro Classics Review

In Vermont, we need to cover "fine arts" every year.  I always struggle with that.  There aren't many places nearby to see stellar plays and hear outstanding orchestras.  There are some suitable presentations, certainly, but they require a bit of travel and generally mean an entire day out.  I'm always on the look out for offerings that incorporate fine arts in some form, that are thorough, and make things uncomplicated for us (or me!).  Maestro Classics engaged us in more than the orchestra.  Along with the music of The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, we learned about instruments, poetry, and even steam engines!

Maestro Classics Review

Maestro Classics CDs are not just classical music CDs, but classical music for children.  The music is beautifully done by The London Philharmonic Orchestra.  Each story was narrated by Yadu.  There is so much information packed into the CDs, activity guides, and online learning, it will keep you very busy!

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Music by Stephen Simon • Story by Virginia Lee Burton

Maestro Classics Review

The Parent's Choice Gold, NAPPA Award Gold, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum, National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, The Teacher's Choice Award, Creative Child Magazine's Top Toy Award, ALSC's Editor's Choice, Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products, iParenting Media, School Library Journal Audio of the Week, and the ALA Booklist Editors Choice Award.
51 minutes
Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are finding themselves becoming obsolete.  They leave the city to dig a cellar for a new town hall.  The more people who come to watch the digging, the better and faster the pair dig.  Though this story is over sixty years old, many children still love to read this classic book about Mike and Mary Anne.  The music was composed much more recently by Stephen Simon (Maestro Classics' own conductor) for his children and grandchildren. 
On this CD, we learned so much more than just listening passively to music.  This was our introduction to Maestro Classics and I'm so glad I chose this one. 
We covered these topics:
  • Children's author Virginia Lee Burton who started writing and illustrating stories for her own children.
  • Irish bagpipes and how they differ from the better known Scottish pipes.
  • Sing along to the Mike Mulligan song.
  • How instruments are selected for the piece.  We even found out about a few unconventional "instruments" used (e.g., a scuba tank and an anvil).
There were physical activity suggestions for some of the music, such as pretending to be an airplane when you hear the instruments portraying airplanes.  Acting out parts of the story was encouraged (and FUN!).  The included 24-page booklet contains information about the conductor, singer, and piper; lyrics and music to the Mike Mulligan song; information about the Uilleann (pronounced ill-un) pipes; as well as a crossword puzzle, maze, and secret code to solve.

For more interaction with the musical piece, I also borrowed the book from the library, so we could look and listen along with the story.  The Maestro Classics website also has a section of Homeschool Music Curriculum Guides, making their CDs a possible unit study.  Grade levels are referenced in these guides.  We used the Mike Mulligan guide to learn about steam engines and the industrial revolution, how steam engines work, and found out why Ireland is called "Emerald Isle,"

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Music by Paul Dukas

Maestro Classics Review

Parent's Choice Silver, National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Creative Child Magazine's Preferred Choice Award, Children's Music Web Award, and the ALA Booklist Editors Choice Award. 
41 minutes
Oh, Fritz, you lazy apprentice!  How could you have been so foolish?  Fritz doesn't care to perform the one tedious task assigned by his master and ends up making a huge mess of things.   This story of a sorcerer's apprentice is actually *very* old, nearly 2,000 years old.  The story originated with Greek author Lucian.  He traveled and told his stories.  His original moral was that there is no such thing as magic and if you believe in it, you are a fool.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet wrote his version in 1779.  Johann changed the moral to, "think about your actions, they may have unexpected consequences."  Eventually, in 1897, French composer Paul Dukas composed the now infamous piece of music.  Walt Disney created a film called Fantasia forty years later and used Dakas' composition as part of the soundtrack.

This activity booklet features information about the conductor, narrator, and producer; information about pitched percussion instruments and drum and bugle corps; and crossword, dot-to-dot, and secret code activities. We watched Disney's Fantasia with Mickey Mouse as the apprentice.  The boys loved it and I made sure we talked about making bad decisions.  We used the Homeschool  Music Curriculum Guide and learned to orchestrate our own music.

We took the music on our trip to the Grands last week and felt all inspired to hum or sing along.  Merrick claps and cheers for us whenever we involve music in our lives.

Other offerings from Maestro Classics include:
  • Swan Lake
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • Carnival of the Animals
  • Casey at the Bat
  • Handel's Water Music
  • Juanita the Spanish Lobster
  • Soldier's Tale
  • Tortoise and the Hare

Price $16.98 for the CD or $9.98 for the MP3 download (which includes a PDF of the booklet).
Age Range 6-12, though no one is ever too young or too old for classical music.

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Up for a challenge?  See if you can determine which Maestro Classics CDs the sound bites on the More Fun with Music page come from.

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