Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Little Love Letter to My Sons

Dear boys,

We are at the point in life when you often roll your eyes when I grab the camera to take a picture of some combination of you three.  "Is this for your blog?"  you ask. 

The whole purpose for starting this blog was just to write down this amazing journey of home educating you three.  To share with family how you are growing.  An online scrapbook.  It has morphed since I started this, but that is OK. 

Today, dear boys, I had a God moment while working through an online Bible study.  I am reading a book called Living So That.  Last week I was so impressed by God about one of the days of study that I made Ben sit down with me and go through part of the lesson.  The lessons in this book are so applicable to anyone at any stage in life, that I am going to keep sharing what I'm learning with combinations of you guys.

I wanted to share with you this screen shot.  It will be helpful to you in your lives (I promise!) because you will wonder at times, is this really what God wants me to do?

Now boys, this isn't really rocket science or anything new.  By the time you leave the house, you will probably have heard this from me at least a dozen times.  Recently, Ben has noticed how similar his Sunday school teachings are to what is being preached from the pulpit.  That is so good.  God is speaking and it is wise to listen and pray.

I love you, boys. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

March Madness

We are not a basketball sort of family.  But every once in a while it is nice to push yourself outside your comfort zone.

So with no more insight that knowing how to read a sports bracket, all five Abbetts took individual shots at creating An NCAA Bracket Of Awesomness.

We are a high stakes betting family here.  I arranged a prize that is truly beyond all prizes.

Winner picks ice cream flavor.

This was a BIG deal for me.  I like nuts.  My favorite is Butter Pecan. I had already announced that Butter Pecan would rule the freezer if I won. Or maybe one of BP and the other a mocha-peanut butter- nutty something or other.  Can you believe I'd be so mean to my family, where all three of my boys dislike nuts?

Luke and Levi with all 5 of our brackets predictions

Since none of us has ever picked anything from the brackets, our family rule involved no money but we did have a huge handicap -- we were able to tally all our wins from the beginning of the series. Finally this past Sunday -- once the national championship contenders were lined up -- I was able to see who are big winner was:


I'm happy to say that this was a really fun diversion for March. It has really helped boost our spirits and we've enjoyed a friendly rivalry.  This is definitely a new family tradition, and I'm sure the stakes will be even higher next year.

Winner selects ice cream AND toppings.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Victus Study Skills System {Crew Review}

Do you have goals?  Do you know how to obtain them?  Do your children?

Intentionally teaching skills to be successful in life is at the heart of the Victus Study Skills System.  Through their Study Skills System Teacher Edition  ($40) and Student Workbook ($20), your middle and high school aged students can learn how to  manage time and resources – and their own attitudes -- so that they can accomplish their goals.

What is Included:

Both of these workbooks are necessary to lead your student through the study system.  You will want to read the Teacher Edition thoroughly before beginning, so that you have a firm grasp the philosophy behind the system and  each  of the 10 steps.

Susan Ison, the founder of this method, began Victus study skills system when her first-grade daughter, after eagerly marching off to her room to show that she was big enough to (finally) have spelling tests to study, returned back to the kitchen in tears asking, “Mommy, how do you study?”  Ms. Ison realized that she needed a way to teach her children how to learn successfully.

Did you know that “victus” is Latin for “way of life?” The program is meant to not just teach strategies for studying, but it is meant to also teach skills and systems which will carry over into life. The program has four main objectives:

1. It helps students understand how to set goals and create manageable, small steps (objectives) to achieve their goals.
2. Provide instruction on specific study skills such as;
  • time
  • organization of physical space
  • reading comprehension strategies
  • note taking
  • test taking
3. The program is meant to help students develop positive attitude so that they can be successful
4. It is meant to empower students to see that they have a role in their lives. (So important with this age when the often are questioning ‘why do I have to do this?’ so often!)

The program is meant to be taught over the course of 5-days, in one hour blocks each.  You could also break it up into two weeks of 30-minute sessions if you thought your student’s attention would benefit shorter class times.  You will definitely want to have a student book for each student – there are great inventories, goal setting-sheets, and other assessments and tools that you will want each of your students to complete.

The 10 sessions are broken up into three “Foundational Cornerstones.” You can see them listed on this Student Workbook table of contents:

Note:  This sample is in color and is ©2013.  Though the content hasn’t

changed, my review copy was ©2014 and was not in color.

How This Worked For Us:

The first section -- “Where am I now?” – is meant to be taught in one session. It includes two useful inventories – a study habits checklist comes first. I could see from this that some of the strategies to be taught through this course would be helpful for Ben.  But the really eye-opening section was a learning style inventory.  Although only three styles are included (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), it was fascinating to see that Ben scored himself just as I have always perceived him – high as a visual learner.  We had great discussions about ways he can take advantage of his visual strengths to help him study and store information.  As a matter of fact, that reminds me that I need to purchase some colored highlighters and pens for him.

“Where do I want to be?” is a section that is meant to help students think in terms of their goals. This was a much harder section to go through, because Ben had never thought in terms of a mission statement. And for as much as he and I have talked about how to achieve merit badge goals, I’ve never before talked to him about owning his school work.  I can see that it has made a big difference for him, and we plan on using the semester goal planning sheets for the long-term.

The third section is definitely the longest part of the program (it accounts for six of the ten teaching sessions – the last of the lessons is a complete review), but arguably has the main meat of the content – the actual time management/ study skills strategies.  Titled “How Do I Get There?”  Your five sessions will be divided like this:
Time Management
Organization and Study Environment
PQRST Reading Strategy
Active Listening
Note Taking
Test Taking 

Two sections that I really wanted to work through with Ben were the reading Strategy and Note Taking sections.  He has great reading comprehension, however, when it comes to reading with purpose (such as reading a literature book then writing an essay), I can see that he isn’t very efficient.  Walking through the PQRST strategies (and sharing with him some tricks that work for me) was great.  In the Note Taking section, Ben and I shared some of our own note taking shortcuts (I love that some of his short cuts are based on C# computer programing coding!).

I will admit that although I’ve never walked through a program that teaches study skills in such a comprehensive manner (and I really like that all these study skills are meant to empower and encourage our students to reach for their dreams and mission in life), we have worked through many of these items – such as test taking, note taking and organization – before.  What I appreciate about the way Ms. Ison approaches these skills is the comprehensive manner.

Victus Study Skills System review

My recommendations & thoughts: I think this is a great product that deserves to be used with students in middle school and high school (the earlier the better!).  I wish I had known about this when Ben was in 7th or 8th grade – I think it might’ve saved us some tears (especially in terms of time management).  While some of what is included in terms of organization and time management is not much different than what I’ve been telling Ben for a couple years, there is just something to be said about reading this advice in a third-party product to legitimize mom’s suggestions.  *grin*

I often explain to the boys that their job at this point in life is to learn – not just their academics, but to learn about God, people, character skills – and I think this product does a great job of helping students see that their education is part of the process that leads them towards their goals and mission.

Ways to Keep In Touch:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/VictusStudySkillsSystem
Twitter: @VictusStudy
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Best Part of the Week


Last week was a pretty momentous week.  Luke and Levi finished their first year of Classical Conversations’ Foundations and Essentials (for Luke) program.  The absolutely loved it.  Although writing is still difficult for Luke, he has some pieces that he is incredibly proud of … which makes Essentials a success all around.  Language Arts is not an easy subject for Luke, but he really showed a lot of growth and mastery.

But the best part of the week was being able to surprise the boys.  This week was definitely The Week That Spring Began.  Warm sun is flooding the front of our house (Levi and I sit on the steps to the 2nd floor of our house and eat lunch in the warmth!), the boys are starting to play football in the street, scooters were dragged out of the basement.  It was lovely.

To help shake off winter and get stretched out and strengthened and strong for spring/ summer, I hooked up with a local lady who turned half of her garage/ barn into an indoor rock climbing wall.  This was a great surprise for the boys – they love rock climbing – and just the thing to get us thinking about being outside again.

PicMonkey Collage

Ben has earned his rock climbing merit badge from his Boy Scout days.  However, it’s been a little while since he belayed anyone, so I appreciate that he had a refresher course.  And, I love the challenges that the instructor, Kellie, built into the class (see the middle and bottom pictures on the right) – the boys had to traverse the wall to move carabineers from one clip to another.  I think they had to travel back and forth 5 or 6 times.  They came out of their two hour session with HUGE grins and empty bellies (thankfully, I was able to get to the grocery store while they were in their class).

I’m so grateful we are able to introduce rock climbing to the boys.  This was something that Dave and I enjoyed together during our dating years….and I hope we can all get out to some rocks here in New England and try some real climbing and bouldering soon.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture {Crew Review}


Media Talk 101, a ministry founded by Phillip Telfer to add a Biblical perspective to the use of media in our society, has produced a thought-provoking documentary called Captivated DVD. The movie retails for $16.95 at the captivatedthemovie.com website (I see that there is a $6.45 study guide as well, but we did not review it).  It is definitely designed for adults to watch, but I think it makes a great topic for discussion with teens.

The movie examines five aspects of media usage:

Consumption – This part of the movie examines the amount of media that surrounds us

Content – This part examines the content of media. Being a history geek, I really enjoyed learning the history of the motion picture industry’s ratings. Did you know that in the 1930s the Hollywood elite set up a code of content which was meant to stem the public’s outcry for censorship and regulation of movie content?  Here is a screenshot of part of that code:  

captivating hollywood's self regulating code 1930

This self-regulation was in place until 1968, when the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating system was put into place.  Until that time, there had been no “R” rated content.  Wow.

Here are a couple other quote that I found worthy of contemplation:

captivating you would let these people in your house

captivating communism

Captivity – This section discusses the various philosophies that are promoted in movies, TV, music and video games.  Are we slaves to media and the message?  Have we taken entertainment and made it our god?  Where do we turn to satisfy our needs when we are hurting and hungry for guidance?  This section was very convicting!

captivate the lord hates violence

This section also discusses the new addictions that have popped up into our culture – online gaming addictions, internet addictions,etc. Do you have a son/ nephew/ husband who LOVES gaming (especially violent video games)?  I will admit that we have allowed these types of games to creep into our house  I know that we need to discuss this with our boys and that this will lead to some hard discussions and decisions, but I think it is important to discuss.

But the movie goes beyond bashing the latest version of Modern Warfare and its kin.  Angry Birds…Farmville….Friends with Words…..they all can captivate us and distract us.

Battleground -  Army Chaplain Major Phil Willis gives a powerful testimony as he compared the danger of insurgents in Iraq -- many of whom were friendly during the day, but used grenade launchers in the evenings to attack coalition forces -- with the battlefield that is part of American pop culture.

Freedom-  This final section provides some inspiring first-hand accounts of those who have thrown of the chains of media and are experience freedom to live in their lives in a whole new way with those they love.

I did get the impression that this DVD was anti-media, but as I continued to watch, I began to see the reasons why.  For me, it is about choices and making wise choices about what we allow into our house.  We have gone through seasons when we allowed shows into our house (we don’t have broadcast TV or Cable) that I would be embarrassed, to be totally honest, to have on if Jesus knocked on my front door.  The thing is, as a follower of Christ, Jesus is with me all. the. time.  He already knows what I consume, what my family consumes, what we write off as being insignificant (“you boys know we don’t talk like that, right?”). 

My recommendations & thoughts:  I’ll admit that I was brought to tears when I watched portions of this.  It was very convicting! I think this is an important DVD to watch as a family, especially with high school teens.  {As a matter of fact, I am thinking about ordering the study guide and including this as part of my 14yo’s health class – mental and spiritual health are definitely topics we want to address.}   Will it make you cut the cable and throw out your DVD collect?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If nothing else I believe it is important to discuss these issues with our kids.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


All prices are accurate as of blog posting.