Saturday, April 30, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Lots of Science and Sign Language

Another week down! We have logged 35 weeks of school as of Friday. Technically that means that next week could be our last week of school. However, I go by hours, not days. Our goal is to finish strong by the end of 38 weeks with 150 hours in the majority of our classes. While both kids have 150 hours in language arts, they still have two lessons each in their spelling books. Also, we are reviewing a few items that fall under language arts, so we will continue with some lessons in language arts.

Monday - Wednesday: This week they focused on the subjects in which each had the least amount of hours logged. Anne is running behind in sign language. This week she logged five hours. She is preparing to perform The Star Spangled Banner for the end-of-year show at our co-op. It is a big endeavor and my perfectionist child is stressing big time about it. She also did about six hours of science with her brother.

Dean focused on science and accomplished eight hours. He made a shaking table with Tinker Crate and learned (reviewed) earthquake science.

They started off being serious with the first earthquake proof building. Then they got sillier and sillier as the videos reveal.

Dean also did a few science experiments that were lying around. My science cupboard is almost bare.

We also finally got around to making an edible layered Earth. We used organic marshmallows and organic rice cereal. It came out pretty good but was too sweet for us. Nonetheless, it was a fun review of the Earth's four layers.

Thursday: We had back-to-back appointments on Thursday. We only got a bit of poetry memorization done in the car and about one hour of school done at home. The big excitement on Thursday was getting Dean's braces off. The bummer was that they said he had to wear his retainer for the rest of his life! It wasn't that way when we were kids, but it seems to be the new way they do things. The kids also got their homeschool yearbook pictures taken and we made it to therapy.

Friday: Happy Birthday, Dean. We don't do school on birthdays. Dean had a lovely day, complete with Cheerios for breakfast. He hadn't had a real test of oats in about five years. He did well with the addition of extra supplements. We took him to the Moog Factory in Asheville for a tour. We learned about the Moog synthesizer and got to play on lots of electronic instruments. Dean really liked the Moog guitar. He won't be getting one since they cost thousands of dollars ~ HA! Everyone enjoyed the Theremin, although we won't be performing with it on stage anytime soon...LOL!! It is considered to be the most difficult instrument to learn to play. We couldn't make it sound like anything but squeaks and scratches.

We wrapped up the night with dinner at a pizza place in town. We will be having cake and going to a trampoline park Saturday with Dean's best friend. Pictures to come next week....

Lastly, Goldilocks had surgery on Friday. She had her deviated septum in her nose corrected. She did well and is back in her mental health placement recovering nicely. Dear husband and I took turns being at the hospital so that we could keep Dean's birthday moving along at a steady pace on the homefront. I am blessed to have a family that can circle the wagons and get so much done. 

We would have gotten more schoolwork done if we had accomplished more days of school, but the week was overall a great success. School is only one part of our lives. Next week has a fair amount of interruptions as well. Dean needs a cavity filled and is having more testing. Oy vey!!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Greemu Devonian Review
For the last several weeks, my mother has been testing a vegan alternative to emu oil called GREEMU from Devonian. We received this product as a review item. GREEMU is a plant-based alternative to emu oil. It contains macadamia seed oil, palm oil, shea butter, sunflower seed oil and rice bran oil. It is considered to have the same lipid composition as Grade A emu oil. This beauty aid comes in a 4 oz. bottle and is completely plant based for those who do not want to use any animal products.
I really can't stand strong smells and I was impressed that this product had no scent. Although it is an oil, it does not remain greasy on your skin and is absorbed in a timely fashion. I tried it on my hands a few times, and it soaked in while I was getting ready for the morning. By the time I was washing the morning dishes, it was fully absorbed and did not leave my hands feeling slippery. I did not really notice it having any effect on my hands, but I do try to keep them well moisturized all of the time. My hands were not having any issues so I gave it to my mother, who wanted to try it. 
Greemu Devonian Review
My mother asked to use this product because she has struggled with very dry skin on her ankles for several years now. Although she has found products to reduce the dryness, the dryness would never go away entirely. She hoped that this would be the answer. She applied a few drops of the GREEMU two times a day for several weeks. Unfortunately, she did not see any improvement. As soon as the liquid was dry, her skin returned to the same condition. 
GREEMU can also be used as a hair product. You just apply a small amount to the roots and work your way down. It is supposed to repair and condition damaged hair. We did not try it in this way. I am amazed how far a 4 oz. bottle goes. You only need a few drops to spread over your entire hands or feet. 
Check out what my fellow crew members had to say. Some of them had amazing results. Please click the banner below. 
Greemu Devonian Review

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Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 25, 2016

TOS Review ~ Heroes of History by YWAM Publishing

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
For the last few weeks, we've been using a Digital Unit Study focused on the book, Heroes of History John Adams: Independence Forever  from YWAM Publishing. What a delightful study we were offered to review. We are distantly related to John Adams so this study was a special treat. Our book was shipped to us and the  digital unit study was a download. 

My children have been homeschooled most of their lives with the Charlotte Mason style of learning. They are very familiar with "living books" and a literature approach to almost every subject. While we have read other history series in the past, they stated this was probably their favorite series ever. We are hooked and can't wait to read the next book. They loved how the book really outlined history and the role John Adams played in it. I loved that they were learning lots of facts without losing the integrity of the story. 
"You learn all about that time period in history without knowing you're learning. It is just a great story," Dean said. 
The story is rich with adventure and flows at a very engaging speed. We already knew a great deal about the life of John Adams, and I am pleased that the book is very accurate to what we know from the many historical documents and the hundreds of letters that passed between John and Abigail Adams during their courtship and marriage. 
Heroes of History John Adams is written by Janet and Geoff Benge. It is 212 pages long and the print is a nice, easy to read, standard type. The reading level is third to fourth grade but is a very enjoyable read even for an adult. We love family read aloud books. This one was especially hard, because everyone wanted to read the next chapters, and we had to wait for Dad to get home from work. We cheated a few times and read on without him and he had to catch up. 
The digital unit study is one of the best literature unit studies I have seen. It is chock-full with ideas and information. The unit study is 79 pages long. It is divided into the following sections (most of which are self explanatory).
  • key quotes
  • chapter questions
  • display corner
  • student explorations
  • community links
  • social studies
  • related themes to explore
  • culminating event
I want to talk about two sections in particular. The display corner is a marvelous idea. You set up a corner in your classroom (or living room in our case) and everyone can contribute their offerings related to John Adams.

I also love the culminating event. We have a special show and tell evening with another homeschool family several times a year. We are looking forward to highlighting what we learned from this book at the next gathering. I think letting children present their learning in their own way is such a wonderful way to embed the information into their brains forever. 

There are so many more wonderful books by Janet and Geoof Benge in this series. They are sold by YWAM in sets of six books or can be purchased individually. The unit studies are a must have to go with the books. Check them out at YWAM Publishing

Check out what my fellow crew members have to say about some other great titles. Click on the banner below.

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 22, 2016

Our Week in Pictures

Wow ~ it was a whirlwind week!

Where We Went ~ We attended Lego Club, church, Chimes Choir, Dance, multiple appointments, co-op classes and round one of educational testing for Dean (he still has a few more assessments in round two ~ gifted/talented, ADHD and learning disabilities).
The students made a Lego quilt in Lego Club.
Chimes ~ their first concert is this Sunday.
Anne is stretching during break time at co-op.
School ~ The kids managed to log 25 hours of school this week, including dance and co-op classes. They made great progress on language arts and history. We never made it to our literature studies this week, but that is okay. We are very busy with several review items. There is some cool stuff coming up soon. I think we will be done with school in about three weeks!

Goldilocks Update ~ Goldilocks had extensive psychological testing this week. I think that the psychologist seemed good and really caring. I hope the results will help us uncover if there is anything else we can do to help Goldilocks. Dear Husband and I took her on an outing this week. I think she enjoyed herself. 
I have a picture of her with this statue as a toddler. It is hard to believe she is 15. 

Observations and Confessions ~ This is the time of year when I really start formulating my thoughts for the next school year. I am in the observation stage of planning. The kids have grown so much this year. One major thing I have recently realized is that my two remaining homeschool students are not academics and are not going to become so. Neither one of them particularly loves book learning as I did as a child. I loved, LOVED learning. I went to school all day and came home and played school some more and I am still totally in love with education. However, my kids are not. Sure, they like learning and are smart kids, but they don't live and breathe books like I do. They both test high on end of year tests, but even our very fun, tailored to their way of learning school is something they look forward to completing so that they can have time for their own passions. Anne is an athlete first and a theater rat second. She loves to stretch a little further and push her body a little bit harder. Her spare time is spent creating new films and exercising (always exercising). Dean's loves are theater, comedy, music and art. He loves to play his guitar, perform on stage and watch sunsets. He loves color and beauty. Of course, he also loves video games (sigh).

So next year, I hope to embrace who they are and stop trying to turn them into bookworms. I don't think this means a radical change to the way we homeschool but more a change in my attitude. I do think we may streamline a few subjects such as history so we move faster. We tend to move at a snail pace with history because the teacher goes down a million rabbit trails (ahem). I want to, need to, accept who they are. Their high school years are right around the corner and this is their education, their future, their adult lives we are working toward. They are awesome kids with awesome passions and for that I am grateful.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TOS Review ~ Writers In Residence

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

My son has really struggled with writing over the years, so I am excited to review Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries. This is an exciting new program that is geared toward 4th through 8th graders. The program is designed and written by Debra Bell. I received Writers in Residence Volume 1- Apprentice. This is a writing-focused language arts program that is intended to take 32 weeks if the student works through the lessons four days a week.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Volume 1 has six units that include the following writing assignments: 
  • When I Was Young
  • Very Truly Yours
  • My Family Hall of Fame
  • My Favorite Author
  • The History of Me
  • Zap! Pow! Kazam!
Each unit falls under one of four types of writing. Students are asked to write about an experience that they remember, a creative writing project that they imagine, a project that teaches them to research, or a writing project that teaches them how to think about a subject and write it from their own point of view (argument writing). I like that this program is designed to prepare students for the type of writing they will most likely do as adults. 

I chose to use this program with my 13 year old son. He has cerebral palsy and a few learning challenges. I am very pleased that this program is self guided and helps my son to be more independent. He really struggles with working on his own. He finds the program easy to follow and likes the workbook style. He likes all of the checklists that are throughout the lessons and the suggested daily schedule that helps keep him on task. 

Writers in Residence comes with two books, the answer key and the student text. I am pleased that the program is contained in an all-in-one student text so that my son can keep all of his writing work together. There are even lined pages provided in the text for taking notes, writing drafts and completing the final writing assignment for each lesson. I like how engaging the program is for the student. The pages are colorful and the entire text is written to the student (once again promoting independence). Each lesson easily guides the student through the writing process. 

In addition to guiding students through the writing assignment, there are wonderful mini lessons within each lesson on grammar and capitalization. For example, in Module 2 there is a section explaining common and proper nouns and the importance of capitalizing personal names. The student is then given the opportunity to practice editing a page that needs the proper nouns capitalized. 

Lastly, the student textbook has six Christian authors highlighted. An author is presented at the beginning of each unit by form of an interview. The interviews are a fun way to learn more about some great authors and for students to receive inspiration to work hard to become good writers themselves. I like the way the author spotlight section helps the student to have a mentor and feel supported through the writing process. 

Our Final Thoughts in a Nutshell ~ My son and I are pleased with this program. I plan to use it with my 12 year old daughter next year. My son likes that the entire program is in a book. He feels that the lessons are short enough to get through in the required time and finds the directions easy to follow. Although much of the grammar is a review for him, it does not feel "preachy but more like a reference" (his words). He likes the variety between writing, grammar pages, and reading material. He feels that most programs he has used in the past were all writing all the time. It is a relief that this program is not that way. 

Check out what my fellow crew members have to say by clicking on the banner below. 

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 15, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Michelangelo and Fresco Art

Ahhh ~ The end of the week! You know it has been a productive week when you look around the house and wonder if a bomb went off in the main living areas. Then you look at your camera and see that you only managed to take pictures on one day! Yep, it was a crazy and productive week around here.

We had another art lesson with Grandma. We had a lovely time learning about Michelangelo and fresco painting. Our homeschool friends, the twin girls, also joined us for the art lesson. The kids mixed their own Plaster of Paris for their "fresco" material and then painted one of their favorite things about living on the Earth. They enjoyed painting on damp Plaster of Paris.

Anne making Plaster of Paris

Plaster of Paris poured in a paper plate

Dean carefully painting on the damp Plaster of Paris

Anne painting

Dean's finished fresco

Anne's finished fresco

We are getting closer to wrapping up school. I have begun counting up our hours each week to see if we have enough hours to close out any subjects. This week Dean completed physical education. They both need only three more hours to complete their literature course. We will finish that up next week.

Next week is going to be very adapted. Goldilocks (our daughter placed out of the home and living in psychiatric setting) is having extensive psychological testing two mornings and then Dean is having his end-of-year testing and a learning disability evaluation on Thursday. We also have Lego Club and tons of dance hours. I am not sure how many hours of school we are going to accomplish, but we will give it our best shot!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

TOS Review ~ Homeschool Copywork

We received a Lifetime Membership to Homeschool Copywork, which grants us access to a nice variety of e-books and notebooking pages. As Charlotte Mason centered homeschoolers, I was very excited to receive this membership. I am always on the lookout for good quality and wholesome copywork for my children. Homeschool Copywork certainly fits the bill.

Homeschool Copywork Review
On this website you may choose a Lifetime Membership, which is active as long as the website is active, or you may choose a Full Membership, which is good for one year. The site is very easy to use. The e-books are divided up by Early Elementary Copywork, Upper Elementary Copywork, and Junior High - High School Copywork. There is also a section filled with bonus notebooking pages. Each e-book has a description of its contents and explanation of whether the pages are manuscript or cursive. Some of the e-books have both cursive and manuscript in the same book. You may download as many as you wish. 
For the purpose of this review we chose the e-book, Leonardo da Vinci Artist Study and Copywork. We were delighted to find this e-book since we were already studying Leonardo da Vinci. This e-book is so much more than copywork. The book begins with a quick biography of Leonardo's life. It then goes on to suggest a few activities to do, such as inventing a flying machine or experimenting with tempera paints on a variety of surfaces. Each copywork page has a quote from Leonardo da Vinci and a lined space below the quote. There is also a piece of Leonardo's artwork on each page. I like the variety of pages presented in this book. There are manuscript pages with dotted letters to trace, traditional manuscript to copy, and cursive pages. The student also has options of lined wide rule or lined primary school paper with the middle dotted line. The size of the ruled paper decreases as they move through the book to give the child room for improvement as they work. Lastly, the book has full-size pictures of some of Leonardo da Vinci's artwork for picture studies. 
My children liked this copywork more than most. Anne thought that the pictures were lovely and made the pages more exciting. She also liked that the lines were bigger on some of the cursive pages. She is really enjoying cursive right now and liked the style of cursive presented in this book. Dean doesn't generally like copywork. He has mild cerebral palsy, so writing of any kind is a chore to him. However, he found the variety of sized paper a relief. He didn't feel like any of the pages were babyish, which made him much more cheerful during copywork time. 
I am very impressed with this book. We are looking forward to doing more copywork books from this site. We are planning to do O Captain My Captain Copywork, Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, Amazing Grace Hymn Study and Copywork, and The Poems of Emily Dickinson as Copywork. This is just a small sampling of e-books in the Upper Elementary section. There are also great titles in the Junior High - High School section. This site will keep my children busy for years to come. I highly recommend this website. The cost of a full membership is $29.95 for one year, and the Lifetime Membership is $45.00 for a lifetime. Check out what the other TOS members have to say by clicking on the banner below.

Homeschool Copywork Review

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 8, 2016

Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids

We just completed a unit study on journalism using the book, Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids: Mighty Muckrakers from the Golden Age to Today with 21 Activities. I am so glad we finally got to this unit study. I put this on my list to do more than a year ago. I love this series of books with 21 activities. They are chock-full of great information and hands-on activities to reinforce learning.

Nellie Bly is such an exciting woman who my kids first "met" when we studied Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. We learned that she attempted to go around the world in less than 80 days after reading Jules Verne's book. I should say she not only attempted it but also succeeded. We followed her real life journey on our globe and listened to some of the details about the countries she passed through. We love our talking globe.

My kids loved the "You name it" project where they took their names and wrote as many words as they could think of to describe themselves. I am only showing mine because the kids used their real names for their projects.

They learned about creating a life motto and thought up ones for themselves. Anne came up with the phrase, Leap over problems so they can't get you! Dean, who we must remember is a teenage boy, thought up the motto, Cookies make the world go round; eat more cookies. That boy's mind is always on food. We learned about the life of Newsies (young boys who sold papers during the 1800's and watched the musical movie, Newsies.

We learned about how Nellie Bly got her start in investigative journalism by acting the part of a crazy woman and getting herself committed into the "Mad House". Her editor rescued her after nine days, but her articles about the mental hospital opened up this secret world to the public and helped to improve conditions for the women inside mental institutions. What a fascinating and brave woman!

The kids learned about yellow journalism and political comic strips. They also made comic strips of their own, although theirs were not political. 

One of their favorite projects was learning about Jacob Riis, a journalist and photographer who shed light on the horrible conditions in the tenements of New York City. He used photography to show how the other half lived and get the city leaders to start the slow process of reforming and improving the tenements. My kids hit the streets of our local city and took their own pictures and then turned them into collages on PicMonkey.

Anne ~ She took photos of her dance studio, favorite buildings, spring trees in bloom, and dog dishes (our city is well known for being dog friendly and many stores leave out water and treats).
Dean ~ He took photos of one of his favorite coffee shops, flowering trees, the car he would like to someday own (haha), one of the many cranes in town right now (our city is bursting with growth), and one of the many murals around town that he likes. 
The kids also learned about Ida B. Wells and all of her work to bring about improvements for African Americans in the south. We learned about the horrible practice of lynchings and all that Ida B. Wells did to try to stop them. The kids learned about pen names and chose their own. 

We also dissected a newspaper and looked at all the different parts. We found the 5 W's (who, what, where, when, why) in a famous article about the shirtwaist triangle factory in 1911.

Lastly, we learned about Upton Sinclair. We will be reading his famous book, The Jungle, when they are in high school. They got a taste of it this week while reading excerpts. It is one of the books that had a deep impact on me during my freshman year of college. The children then wrote a letter to their future selves. 

What a wonderful study -- I am glad we finally got this one off my list!

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 4, 2016

TOS Review ~ Times Tales

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

The Trigger Memory Co. provided us with a digital downloadable version of Times Tales for review in our homeschool. I used this primarily with my daughter, who is a 6th grader and was still slow with her multiplication tables. This program comes as two downloadable files that play Part I and Part II of the stories. It all comes with three PDF files that hold tests, flash cards and crossword puzzles. Times Tales covers the multiplication tables from six through nine.

What It Is ~ This is a unique program that is mnemonic based. Mnemonic means the use of patterns of letters or numbers, ideas or associations that assist in remembering something. Times Tales uses cute stories to help students learn the most difficult facts. I was pleased how smoothly this video ran on our computer. The stories were engaging and short. The characters are shaped like numbers. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Week are shaped like the number 7.  This curriculum is geared towards first through fourth grade.

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
How It Works ~ There are six steps to this curriculum. Step 1 is to learn the stories by watching the little short story movies. The child can repeat them over and over until she knows the story well. Step 2 is a story quiz that is set up like a game show and is called "Beat the Clock." If the child can't get all of the answers correctly, he needs to go back and watch the mini stories again. Step 3 is "you're the storyteller" section. This is when the child tells the story to match the picture. Once the child has memorized the stories, she is ready for the next section. Step 4 is practicing the flash cards with symbols. Step 5 is practicing the flash cards without the symbols. Lastly, Step 6 is the written test. The practice test has the symbols and the final test has no symbols.

My Opinion ~ After using the program for a few days I noticed that my daughter was reciting her 8 and 9 times tables much faster than before. These were the tables she was struggling with before the Times Tales. We put the program aside because she had mastered the times tables to my satisfaction. Surprisingly, when asked to recite the times tables weeks later, she recited them quickly forwards and backwards. I also found it easy to set up and use. As a parent and a teacher, I am pleased with this curriculum. However, I wish that it included the 11 and 12 multiplication tables.

My Daughter's Opinion ~ To be perfectly honest, she didn't like it. She is 12 and found it very babyish. She didn't feel that it was helping her learn (although the results show otherwise). Once she improved her attitude about the lessons, she started to find benefits. She liked how easy it was to run the program. She has a competitive soul, so her favorite part was the game show where she tried to beat the clock.

In Conclusion ~ I would recommend this program for a family with younger children than mine. I think the program works and saw the results in my own household. I also think it could be used in a remedial situation if the child could have a good attitude and give it a chance. To see what my fellow TOS crew members had to say, click on the box below.

Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
Blessings, Dawn