Monday, March 20, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew ~ Bessie's Pillow

Strong Learning, Inc.

We had the opportunity to review a wonderful book called Bessie's Pillow by Strong Learning, Inc. Our family loves learning history through real life narratives. This book is the story of a young Jewish woman who travels from Eastern Europe to America alone in 1906. She leaves her parents forever to escape persecutions during the pogroms.

Bessie's Pillow
This is a wonderful, true story based on the life of Linda Silbert's grandmother. The reader follows her journey to America, settling into New York City, finding a job, a brief encounter with the hardships of the Lower East Side, finding love, marriage and motherhood. The story unfolds in a natural way that allows the reader to truly fall in love with Bessie and her family. This book is geared toward teenagers but could be easily understood and enjoyed by younger learners. However, I would give a word of caution. This story is about real life, and real life has heartache. This book deals with premature death on several occasions. My kids would state that I am a big crybaby, and, indeed, I cried twice during this book. All that said, I would still share this book with a younger audience. 
Bessie is a great heroine who inspires the young reader to live a full and productive life. She conquers many trials, finds joy and lives a moral, upstanding life. We used this book as a family read-aloud. My husband read ahead on his own time because he enjoyed it so much. He said this was the best book we read this school year. He loves history, but doesn't usually get so excited about a "children's book". We all enjoyed the book and usually read aloud several chapters a night. The story is clearly written, without having too many characters. It is easy to follow the story and remember the story line, even if you have to put it down for a week due to illness, as we did. 
This website also goes along with the story and is a wonderful supplement. It is filled to the brim with additional information to make the book truly come to life. There are tons of links and a teacher guide with discussion questions. My daughter, who is a dancer, loved exploring all of the links that taught about the history of dance. She was most impressed, or maybe I should say surprised, by the Grizzly Bear dance. My son was more interested in the silent film section and and watched several of the clips. There are also recipes for exciting things like Baked Alaska and Peach Melba. We tried Peach Melba, but I didn't get a photo.
This book gets a thumbs-up from our family. I never expected it to be such a wonderful and thorough history lesson. I loved that it took a slightly different spin on the immigrant story than ones I have read in the past. Most of the stories in the past have focused on the Lower East Side and extreme poverty. This story represented a different immigrant who had some money, skills to find a trade and family/friend connections in the new word. 
To see other reviews, click on the banner below. 
Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}
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Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 17, 2017

My Teen Son's High School Plan

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My son is currently 14 years old. According to the public school system, he should be completing his freshman year of high school. Instead, he is completing his eighth grade year and is working on a few courses which will count for ninth grade. Dean needed tons of medical intervention and therapies when he was very young, so we didn't start homeschooling full force until he was a bit older. The result was that he was ready for eighth grade this year, but he desperately wanted to be in ninth grade like his public school friends. At the end of last year, I had my son professionally tested for various special education needs as well as extensive IQ test. He came out with a superior IQ and some very confusing, scattered test results that suggested a learning challenge and the need for further testing. Further testing showed that he has a significant pragmatic language disorder, scattered processing issues and depression. Armed with this information, we were advised to have him do a split year. We continued with eighth grade as originally planned and picked some courses that he could work through that would count for ninth grade.

This year he has been working on the following courses ~

8th Grade Courses
  • English 8 (8th grade) ~ mostly literature
  • Pre-Algebra (8th grade)
  • World History (8th grade 1/2 credit)
  • Life Skills (8th grade)
  • Physical Education (8th grade)
  • General Science (8th grade 1/2 credit)
9th Grade Courses
  • English I (9th grade) ~ mostly a writing course
  • Earth and Environmental Science (9th grade)
  • U.S. History I (9th grade)
  • Visual Arts I (9th grade)
  • String Instruments (9th grade)
Obviously, with 11 courses on his plate, he isn't going to complete all of them by the end of the year. He thought he would be able to tackle this much schooling at the beginning of the year, but his depression really got in the way. Instead, we are focusing on finishing all of eighth grade and being at the halfway mark in most of the ninth grade courses he worked on this year. This will mean that he could take on the rest of his ninth grade courses next year and perhaps two tenth grade courses as well. In the end, he hopes to somehow "catch up" and graduate at the same age that most of his peers would. This is all his own internal pressure. I would rather take the next four years to complete his high school credits. He has come a tremendous way from the huge challenges placed on him in infancy, but there is lots of work to still do. I wish he would relax and give himself time.

Below is part of his high school plan. I have studied all of the requirements of our county and state. We are focusing on a college track diploma, even though I think a two year college degree is the most likely scenario for our son and doesn't require foreign language and the harder sciences. However, we want him to be ready for a four year college if that is where he is led. We are not required to follow the local high school transcript, but I find it to be a good guide. I feel it will be helpful for future employers to have a familiar looking transcript (if he doesn't go to college at all).

His current plan ~ 

9th Grade
  1. English I
  2. Math I
  3. Earth Science
  4. American History I
  5. Physical Education (mostly dance) and Health
  6. Visual Arts I
  7. String Instruments I
10th Grade
  1. English II
  2. Algebra
  3. Biology
  4. American History II
  5. Career and Technology course

11th Grade
  1. English III
  2. Geometry
  3. Chemistry or Physics
  4. Spanish I

12th Grade
  1. English IV
  2. Personal Finance
  3. Government
  4. Spanish II

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We still have many electives empty, since I am still waiting to see what he truly needs to follow his passions. Our state requires a 4 year concentration for public school students. Dean's concentration will most likely be in the arts, which can be a combination of music, theater and visual arts.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew Review ~ Creative Freewriting Adventure

Creative Freewriting Adenture
We have so enjoyed Creative Freewriting Adventure from Home School Adventure Co.. Do you have a child who struggles with writing? My kids like to write but often struggle to get going or narrow down the topic. We were given Creative Freewriting Adventure to review.  This is a lovely program that encourages having fun with writing. 
Home School Adventure Company
This program requires no prep work. The teacher just prints off the assignment and sets the child to work. Each exercise is set in the same manner. First, there are a few paragraphs to read which set the stage, giving information about a particular event, circumstance, or person. Then they are given questions, prompting them to take this information and create a story. At this point, the timer is set and the child is free to write for 15 minutes. The intention is to complete the story, although it is not required. I thought this would be very hard for my students. They generally don't work well under pressure. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I explained to them that they did not need to worry about spelling or even about completing the story. They just needed to write, enjoy themselves and be as creative as they could be for the 15 minutes. Surprisingly, they really took to the exercises. After she got the hang of managing her time, my daughter was able to complete several stories. My son didn't manage to finish any stories but did produce some very creative paragraphs. They both liked the short time limit. It didn't feel overwhelming to them or that they would be at it "forever".
There are 10 exercises in this program. The titles are as follows.
  • Exercise 1 - Thales
  • Exercise 2 - Pythagoras
  • Exercise 3 - Xenophanes
  • Exercise 4 - Democritus
  • Exercise 5 - The Wise Woman
  • Exercise 6 - Beasts
  • Exercise 7 - The Gallery
  • Exercise 8 - Winged Pony
  • Exercise 9 - Eternity
  • Exercise 10 - The Ultimate Christmas Party
I used this program to supplement our current English curriculum. My main purpose was to encourage joy in telling a story and to also learn to manage time during writing assignments. As high school students, they may have to do timed essays, and I hope exercises such as these will reduce any pressure they might feel.

My students have done most of the exercises and were shocked to find out that there were only two more to do. (Amazingly, I think they secretly wished there were more than 10 exercises.) They thought this was a fun way to do creative writing. They liked that the writing prompts were open ended. My son liked that there was a variety of ways to expand each assignment and that he could put himself in the story. I liked that they didn't mind the exercises and that it didn't take a long time. It was easy to squeeze it into our already very busy day. 
This program gets a thumbs up from our family. It is easy, fast, requires no teacher set up and FUN!
To check out what others on the review crew had to say, click on the banner below. The review team also reviewed different products from this company.
Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 11, 2017

We Plow Along

Another week has flown by! This was one of those weeks where I didn't touch the camera much. Thank goodness I record everything in lesson planners, otherwise it would be like the week didn't happen without pictures ~ LOL.

Literature in Movies ~ We continued watching movies this week to get more great literature into our learning. This week we watched The Chocolate War and The Book Thief. The kids gave The Chocolate War a thumbs down. They didn't like all of the bullying. Of course, they weren't supposed to like it from that perspective. They liked The Book Thief much better, even though it had lots of death. The death wasn't graphic and you expect a lot of death when a movie is set during wartime. If you are wondering what films we plan to see, I have compiled a list of many movies in this post.

Documentaries ~ The stomach virus has moved through the family one member at a time this week. To keep school going, we watched several documentaries. Our two favorites were Life After People and One Day On Earth (a time capsule of life in a 24 hour period of time around the world).

Art with Grandma ~ We got to do art with Grandma this week. We learned about Henri Matisse and then created our own cut-out artwork. It was lots of fun! Grandma always worries over her art lessons, but she needn't worry. The kids always enjoy the lessons and create wonderful art.

Science ~ Geology is coming along nicely. We spent one morning this week identifying several minerals. We studied the luster, color, hardness (using a scratch test and the Mohs Hardness scale) and texture of each mineral. Plus, we streak tested each mineral. We also studied salt vs. sugar under the microscope. Lastly, my kids showed Rose how you can set steel wool on fire using only a 9 volt battery.

The rest of the week was achieved. There were lessons in math, writing, and reading, as well as workbook pages. There were trials and small triumphs. Our debit cards were compromised through a Paypal hack, so we are currently without bank cards while the bank tries to get our money back. There was lots of dance classes ~ the ever present activity. There were meetings. We went to Goldilocks' first choir concert at her school. So we plowed along. We are now bracing for a winter storm. Crazy!! It has been spring-like for weeks and now here comes 4 to 6 inches of snow. I always say, "when life gives you lemons ~ make lemon cake!"

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A List of Middle School/High School Literature Films

I am compiling a list of movies based on literature for middle school and high school students. This is a great way to review great books after reading them or get in some more literature for a slower reader.
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. The Great Gilly Hopkins
  3. The Book Thief
  4. The Giver
  5. Watership Down
  6. Anne of Green Gables
  7. Where the Red Fern Grows
  8. Sounder
  9. The Diary of Anne Frank
  10. The Time Machine
  11. A Christmas Carol
  12. Romeo and Juliet
  13. Animal Farm
  14. A Raisin in the Sun
  15. The Chocolate War
  16. Jane Eyre
  17. Les Miserables
  18. The Great Gatsby
  19. Wuthering Heights
  20. Of Mice and Men
  21. Pride and Predjudice
  22. Moby Dick
  23. War and Peace
  24. Grapes of Wrath
  25. The Invisible Man
  26. David Copperfield
  27. Great Expectaions
  28. 1984
  29. The Outsiders
  30. Gone With the Wind
  31. Dead Poets Society
  32. Holes
  33. The Lottery
  34. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (the book is much better)
  35. I Remember Mama ~ Based on Mama's Bank Account
  36. Roots
  37. The Glass Menagerie (1973)
  38. Because of Winn-Dixie
  39. The Black Stallion
  40. The City of Ember (the book is much better)
  41. The Hunger Games
  42. 12 Years a Slave
  43. The Old Man and the Sea
  44. The Color Purple
  45. Little Women
  46. Emma
  47. Oliver
  48. A Passage to India
  49. A Man for All Seasons
  50. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  51. The Princess Bride (my husband says I need to give this movie a chance ~ he says it is the best!)
  52. Johnny Tremain

I found the websites below useful.

<>  This website has some great lesson plans and lists of movies.

<> This site is a super way of checking the content of movies before viewing.

I am sure I will add more over time, but this is the beginning of my list.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 3, 2017

Meeting My Teens Where They Are

Last week I talked about how my teens are struggling to stay focused on school this year. They are focused on what is going on in their bodies and minds more than my schoolwork agenda. So, I keep looking for ways to meet them where they are and still get the education into them. This week had some great accomplishments. Score points for Mom!!

The Mall Challenge ~ My son has been "screaming" for more independence, yet he really isn't ready to go out and conquer the world. In fact, he resists my many attempts to help him go out into the world. However, I found a challenge that he embraced. My friend and I created a mall challenge for her daughter and my two teens. We gave each child $25 and a list of places in the mall they had to go into together. They were required to make three purchases each. We took them to the mall early on a weekday when there would be very few people at the mall. We sent them off on their challenge while we power walked the mall. They knew we were there and they had their cell phones if they needed us, but they were free to follow their lists and make their own purchases. Her daughter and my son hate to use money to make purchases by themselves, because they are both very shy. But by being together, they both were able to accomplish the goal. It was a great experience! We plan to do it again with gift cards and get them to spread out farther into the mall. This time we let them tell us where they wanted to go in advance. Once we were there and walking, we realized that they had picked places all within one wing of the mall. (The only picture we got of them was off in the distance).

Literature in Movies ~ I'm going to break one of the homeschool myths. Have you heard that all homeschool kids love to read? They are all avid readers, right? NO! My kids aren't avid readers at all. They can read on grade level or above and do use reading every day, but you will never find them curled up with a book for free time...NEVER. My daughter is an avid athlete and my son is an avid musician/artist. They have their passions that consume their time. I just can't get them to read enough of the amazing books on my endless lists. I have decided to have them watch a literature-based movie every week that will replace having to read a book on my list. I will be doing a separate post about this soon. This week we watched The Great Gilly Hopkins. It was good and stuck pretty close to the book, at least from my memory.

Field Trip ~ This week we went to a gem and mineral museum in the next town over. It is a tiny museum that only takes up one large room in the basement of an old building. However, it was wonderful. We were greeted at the door by a very eager volunteer who walked us through all of the displays. We learned about florescent minerals, saw lots and lots of cool fossils, learned about a meteorite that was found in our town, and admired petrified wood. We then decided to break two geodes. I love geodes. They are my favorite thing about geology. Once the museum volunteer broke open our geodes, he told us all about the minerals inside. He then showed it to them under a black light, a florescent light and a microscope. It was an awesome lesson! This tiny, free museum beats the expensive one in our larger city.

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What We Did in Bullet Points
  • Mall Challenge (life skills and some math)
  • Lots of Sukoku (math)
  • Mineral and Gem Museum (science)
  • Work on eBay and organize/clean out pantry (home econ for Anne)
  • 10 hours of dance classes for Anne
  • Bessie's Pillow (English) almost done!
  • 12 math pages on average, mean and mode for Anne (math)
  • 6 pages of Are You a Math Genius? for Dean (math)
  • Geology ~ lesson 2 -- layers of the earth (science)
  • 3+ hours of art for Dean (art)
  • Dean started working on a timeline that he is illustrating (world history)
  • 5 lessons in spelling for Anne (English)
  • Guitar lesson for Dean and lots of practice (music)
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins movie (English)
  • CNN Student News
  • Anne finished reading The Little Mermaid (English)
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review ~ Math Mammoth

Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth }

I have heard about Math Mammoth through the years but never used it. I was pleased to receive three downloadable workbooks from the Blue Series, which works on one specific topic for each workbook. We reviewed Data and Graphs, Statistics and Probability and The Four Operations (With a Touch of Algebra).
Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth }
I was a bit concerned that Anne had a gap in her education when it came to graphing, so I decided to have her do the Data and Graphs workbook. It is intended for grades 2 through 5 but served as a fine review for my 7th grader. Anne (12) is good at math but doubts herself a great deal and had just come through a difficult patch in her 7th grade curriculum. It was time for her to have a little break with some confidence building. She found that workbook enjoyable and liked the set up of the pages. "They (the pages) weren't too busy and the directions were well written," Anne told me. The book covered many different kinds of graphs, as well as average and mode. I felt that the workbook was complete and did an excellent job breaking down the steps. 

Dean (14) struggles with math. In fact, he really dislikes math. I decided that he needed a positive feeling in math more than to move forward at this time. He did The Four Operations (with a Touch of Algebra). He found the pages easier than expected and felt that the directions were clear. As he worked, I noticed that some of the math explanations seemed to be similar to Common Core in nature. I generally dislike Common Core and told Dean that he either could choose to do the math the way it was explained or the traditional way. He said he didn't mind the way they were asking him to do the problems.
We also looked over Statistics and Probability. It looked like a very consistent and complete program. I may have my daughter do it next. My son is going to move on to Pre-Algebra with Math Mammoth. This may seem surprising to those who know how opposed I am to Common Core Math. However, the way Math Mammoth uses Common Core standards makes sense to me, and I could easily understand their explanations. I didn't see any crazy problems like those circulating the Internet or that I have seen in other curricula. I also made it clear to my children that I would teach it a more traditional way if they became confused. To read more about Math Mammoth's beliefs go here.
So, overall, this program gets a thumbs up from our family. The kids really liked that each workbook concentrated on just one aspect of math. However, if you are looking for a complete curriculum, they have that on their website. I am also excited about their real life workbooks. They go from elementary arithmetic through calculus. What an exciting way to make math come to life! Check out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say. We all reviewed different workbooks.
Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn