Monday, November 24, 2014

My Little Thespian

Levi has been involved in a stage production --  one night only! -- and he has finally had his debut! Last Friday night proud parents, family and friends gathered for a first of its kind production of a George MacDonald fairy tale.  You can find the story here: At the Back of the North Wind.

It is the tale of the Princess Daylight - a poor young heiress who suffers the fate of so many young princesses of old -- the curse of a jealous fairy/ witch/ etc.  While this premise seems familiar to us all (is there a Disney Princess who did not suffer this fate at some level?), I absolutely LOVE the independence of Daylight.  When told she can be 'cured' of the curse by a simiple kiss from an unknowing Prince, she asserts here 19th century feminism (meant in a good way) and cries out to here father The King (Levi's role) something like, "What kind of prince randomly walks around kissing unsuspecting princesses?  And do I want to be associated with that kind of man?!?!?"

THAT is a good role model!  Though I have no daughter to give advice to, it is wise to wonder if your association with men who kiss wontonly is a good thing!

Here is my King:

Oh the facial hair!  He is so cute!

I do not think this is Levi's last play!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The End of Another Review Year and Our Family Blue Ribbon Choices

We as a family have been blessed beyond words to review curriculum materials for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Over the years, we've had an opportunity to really work with some amazing curriculum that has re-shaped our homeschool.  Some curriculum has clearly pointed out areas of Review Crew Link Ups.
need for either myself or my chidren.  Some curriculum has clearly pointed out likes and dislikes, some has pointed out clear learning styles and preferences for all of us (including me).  Hopefully, for as much as reviewing has blessed our family, it has been a blessing to blog readers and those who stumble upon my reviews from online searches and

As I often do at the end of a review year, I like to post our favorites -- ur Blue Ribbons -- and the results we've had with some of our products:

1. Analytical Grammar - I think there is something to be said about giving a curriculum another try during a different season of life -- or when they add helpful tools!  Ben is thriving with AG + the teaching DVDs this time through (I thought it would be the answer to our grammar woes when he was in 6th grade, but it only caused more confusion and tears).  Honestly, what is keeping us both sane is the teaching DVDs.  He is really getting grammar this time through, and it will complete his fairly intense year of English 2.  

2. Ubersmart Math  This is another program that has only gotten better as the year has gone on.  When the boys were younger, they adored Math Rider.  It was fun and had this helpful distracting effect so that they were not constantly reminded they were working on math forgoodnesssake.  But for Levi, Math Rider did not cut it.  Ubersmart (or as we now call it Ubermath) is short, sweet, to the point and gets him in and out with little trouble.  I LOVE that I can program it to include math facts up to x12s or even x15s (which I should do for Luke to help him with his CC Essentials math practice).  Levi has now mastered all multiplication facts up through x12, so we're going to leisurely worth through subtraction.  He didn't balk when I told him my (not so evil) plans.

3. I had big plans to incorporate Amy Puetz's Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum, but I have stuggled all fall to fit in it.  I really liked the simplicity of the program and the great personal stories of men and women in our country's past.  I'm not sure if I'm reaching beyond my abilities to incorporate it into our winter or not.

4. The Trident Case for iPad is still our go-to case that our iPad lives in.  Thank goodness, too, because it has taken a few tumbles that I am sure wouldn't have resulted in relieved sighs!

5. Shhh!  I haven't had the heart to tell Levi that the Middlebury Language Course is over.  He still works on his Spanish every. single. day.  Just this week I heard him recording his responses while Ben was working on his high school online course -- a whole dining room table full of Spanish.  LOVE!

6.  I am disappointed that Levi gave up on the Veritas Press Course.  We really loved this -- except when he had to spell a new, long word in a timed situation.  That one exercise really soured him on the whole course.  I think I will go ahead, however, and begin to sit with him and re-introduce it to him -- unless we tackle a NEW history course in this winter on our SIXTH year of reviews beginning in January 2015!

7.  Another course that I have loved and we will finish is Fortuigence online writing.  Ben has about 3 lessons to complete and we can only work on it about every other week, so it meshes with his Classical Conversations writing projects.  

8. I am passing on some blessings to others:  a cousin's son is going to get the Egglo Glow in the Dark Easter eggs and book, and a friend who is traveling with her family on a sailboat for the next year was given some DVDs:  Go Science DVDs +  the Growing Wild DVDs from a few Crew years ago.  Hopefully, when they finish them (or if they find they don't need them), they will pass them on to another homeschooling/ sailing family on the waterways!

There are others that we've used in bits and pieces and still others we are saving for later in the school year -- including What on Earth Can I Do? and Bible Study Guide for All Ages from 2013. 

If you are interested in what other the Review Crew voted as their Blue Ribbon Curriculum Choices, click on the blue ribbon above!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birthdays & My Takeaway Lesson from Fall Break

Grandparents made their annual fall pilgrimage to visit my fall birthday boys (and the rest of us). October ends up being a month of birthday celebrations with various parties, special meals, cakes and pies (Levi's request for the past two years has been a pumpkin pie for his birthday cake).  

Here's two of my favorite pictures from days past:

Luke at about 4 years old (pre-glasses)

Levi, about 2 years old

We always have adventures while Nana and Opa visit:  this year the boys went to a Japanese restaurant -- the kind where the chef cooks at your table.  What great entertainment and laughter!

The boys also went rock climbing again -- an activity that all three boys really enjoy.  The gym we were at had a cool balance board they all tried (I'm thinking this would make a fun Christmas present to master):

(As an aside, the cake with candles was lovingly made by Grandma! -- she sure knows how to show the boys love)

Lessons from Fall Break: This was the first time in years that we've had a fall break -- and it was both wonderful and stressful!

Our break occurred after approximately 8 weeks of Challenge for Ben and I and six weeks of foundations and essentials for Luke and Levi.  As usual, I should have planned our days better - but something about planning out vacation seems too ironic for me, so we just go with the flow and deal with the damage as it comes.  When we have only one week's worth of work to do across two weeks, we all tend to procrastinate a bit too much; you would think after 40+ years and 6+ years of higher education that I would learn not to procrastinate but find rest and peace in hard work....but some lessons are hard to (re)learn!

However, we have another opportunity to make better choices when we get a week off for Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fascinating Education Chemistry {Crew Review}

Update:  Fascinating Education has offered readers of my blog a 50% discount on any of their science courses!  You may use coupon code through 2ZDWL5NHDB December 15, 2015. 

Are you like me:  always wondering if there is another amazing curriculum that is better for your child's learning style that what you've been using? Well, then stay awhile, because I'm going to share some information on a new science program that could really interest those mamas out there who have children who need another way to learn besides with a textbook.

Fascinating Education is one of those programs that might be a great alternative for students who are strong auditory learners or for those who are interested in a more high-tech program. It might also be a good program for those older students who still struggle with reading comprehension.

Created by Dr. Margulies -- a neurologist! -- Fascinating Chemistry (the program I tried out) has two sister courses: Fascinating Biology and Fascinating Physics.  These courses are designed for middle and high school students.   Each course is available for $79.  You can purchase two of the online science courses for $125 (one year access) or all three online curriculum for $175 and two years of access.

What is included in this course: The Chemistry course consists of the visual course in which Dr. Margulies narrates the entire presentation at a comfortable rate of speech; a multi-page script you can download and print off, if that works for you and your student; chemistry experiments (you will need to have a second password to access these) and tests (which are online multi-choice tests and are self-graded or you can download PDFs of the tests).  You will need an online connection to access the course lectures, which are a PowerPoint-type presentation.

How This Worked:  Ben is taking Biology right now, so I was the one who had a chance to review this product. I haven't taken Chemistry since sophomore year in high school, so I was definitely exercising brain cells I hadn't used in a LOOOOOOONG time!

I was surprised that the Chem course wasn't very long -- 18 lessons.  The lessons average 45-ish minutes to complete.  You can access a course outline to see which topics are covered by clicking on the first page of the PDF outline below:

Here's the Chemistry home screen -- where you will access each lesson's components:

What I learned is that -- for myself -- I need to click on the blue "SCRIPT" button, print out the script and read it though before the lesson.  Any vocabulary I underline/ highlight (I think understanding the vocabulary of a course is important, and I do wish each lesson had a vocabulary list)  After that, I can watch the lesson, with my mind primed for the content and explanations.  

Next, it is onto the lessons themselves (red button).  You can access a sample of Fascinating Chemistry from the website. 

After the lesson is a test.  You have two choices -- the online multiple choice assessment or you can print out the exact same test as a PDF/ paper test.  A benefit of the online test is that it is automatically graded.  Here's a sample of a paper test:

I do think that the tests did a good job of identifying the highlights of the lesson, but that doesn't mean I did well on them.  *grin*

In addition all this, 12 labs are dispersed throughout the course.  You'll need a secondary password (provided by the company upon purchase) to access the labs.  Some of the labs are quite extensive (making brass) while others are fairly similar to ones I've done with my younger kids (air pressure, mass of air).  If I was doing this course with my older children, I would use a Sharpie marker and black out the lines that tell students what they should see by doing the experiment.  I like to preserve a little mystery and wonder around the experiments and don't always want my students to know what the end result should be (at least not right away!).

I also wish there was a lab supply list available.  I know that Fascinating Education has just re-done their labs, so I'm hopeful that a supply list can be made available soon to help teachers plan for experiments. It was good to see that most (if not all) supplies could easily be found at home or a store -- minus a couple supplies that could be picked up at any online homeschool supplier or Amazon.

One of the things that surprised me with this program is that each lesson is PACKED full of information.  I began the program thinking that one lesson was meant to be done in one sitting. Not for this old brain, lol! Although Dr. Margulies does an excellent job of narrating the information in a manner that is just right in terms of speed and comprehensible style, it is still a packed course and I wouldn't be comfortable that my student was actually learning and retaining information in one sitting.  I would definitely make a plan that each lesson be worked out over several days -- to facilitate retention of the information. Also, I would want my student to interact with the material in some other way -- working on some application questions to help my student digest and think about the information.  

Credits:  So, could this course count as a high school Chemistry credit?  According to the FAQs, the content in the course is similar to that found in other high schools Chem classes.  However, in terms of the amount of material (plus labs), it doesn't seem to add up to the approximate 120-150 hours of coursework necessary for full year Chemistry class.  It seems to me that additional resources would need to be added to this class in order for me to feel confident that my student was doing work worthy of a high school course.  

To see what others thought of this course plus the Biology and Physics classes, click the link below.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Vision Casting with My Sophomore

A month ago, I received notice that a local college was having a 2-hour college admissions/ financial aid meeting for juniors and seniors.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to begin talking about The Future (especially since learning this summer that Ben did want to attend college), and RSVPed that my sophomore and I would attend.

I sort of forgot to tell Ben that we were going to this until this morning; but that ended up working to our advantage as he wasn't able to overthink our casual visit.

from www.StuckInCustom by Trey Ratcliff
So, what ended up happening is that he got something out of it and it opened doors to talk about interests and learning preferences.  He doesn't see himself at a large college.  He liked the idea of computer studies and entrepreneurship/ business studies.  200+ students in a class is repugnant to him.  Thirty-five is nice, but 12 is better.

We talked about the importance of internships, career/ job placements centers, not partying too much in college, but still having fun, changing majors, non-traditional learners, scholarships.  Great stuff.

If I have one piece of advice to offer to those with younger students that you are home educating it is this:  begin talking about the future early.  I wanted to avoid dumping the entire college vs. career discussion on my son at once.  Instead, through a variety of sources and conversations, we've been talking about it for years.  Visiting colleges doesn't have to wait until junior year.

I don't honestly care if this particular college is one that Ben ultimately applies to.  I just wanted it to be a common experience that we could use to build upon as college begins to take a greater emphasis in our curriculum planning for the next few years.  Ultimately, Ben has to be responsible for all these steps, and I want him to begin to realize that it is a process that will take time and planning.

I wasn't really looking for a "you were right, mom" moment, but I was looking for acknowledgement that it was a good idea.  I know I got that as we talked and as I watched him on the tour.

Tomorrow, we are back to sophomore classes -- Geometry, Spanish, American Lit.  But this afternoon, it was nice to spend time thinking about what the future might hold for my pretty cool young man.