Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TOS Review ~ Spiritual Circle Journal

Spiritual Circle Journal
Today I am reviewing a cool journal from Spiritual Circle Journal. The journal, Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens, is intended for kids 8 and up. This is big (11x8.5) and spiral bound so it is very easy to use. The pages are thick and sturdy. The cardboard cover is protected by a thick plastic sheet, so that it is easy to pack and take it with you on outings or to church. The pages are thick and sturdy. In addition to the cover, there is also a second cover that can be personalized by the student. The journal has 66 pages to journal on; 66 blank pages for scrapbooking, doodling or additional writing of the teen's thoughts; and 16 summary pages. There is also a parent/teacher guide at the front of the book and a key to help the student remember what to write in each shape.
Spiritual Circle Journal
What makes this journal unique is that it is geared toward teens and kids. The journal's purpose is to help young people find and build a private relationship with God. By writing their thoughts into this journal and using the questions as a guide, the student will begin to form a quiet time with God and will be encouraged to write on the nine prayer circles (which are actually not circles but rather fun, kid shapes). Each shape has a particular prayer area, such as a confession shape or a thank-you shape. This can be used by just one individual or as a guided activity with an entire church group. 
I decided to use this with my 12 year old daughter. She really likes to scrapbook and doodle. She has just recently begun to enjoy writing, and I thought she would respond positively to the guided writing process. She started off coloring in shapes and then began answering the questions. She felt that some of the questions overlapped or were too similar to other questions. However, she didn't really mind going through the process. She did like the idea of scrapbooking and decorating pages with her thoughts and hopes. She even used Sharpie permanent markers a few times and they did not bleed through the pages. She felt that, while she needs to improve her private prayer time, she would rather just "talk in her head to God, rather than write it down". My daughter is a very private person, so she doesn't like to write her thoughts down in any journal. Nonetheless, she gave me permission to post the picture below.
The summary pages at the end of the book are to help bring a nice conclusion to the journal. The student can go back through the journal and find the most meaningful lessons or Bible verses that she or he learned over the time spent with the journal. My daughter decided to record the lessons she had learned or "reviewed" in her words (as seen below). 
I think these journals would be especially useful in a youth church group where the kids are doing a Bible study course. They should then have some time alone to review the message of the day. It would certainly help those who may not feel confident to speak out during the usual discussion time and want to express themselves in a more private way.
To see what others felt about this book, click on the banner below. 
Spiritual Circle Journal
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up 4 ~ Bears, Books and Banter

We had a fine week. Nothing really stands out as especially stellar educationally. However, we had a solid week of book and real life learning. I continued to hold steady on my goals to let the children have larger control of their education and embrace letting go of things immediately that are not working. With that said, Anne's writing program was set aside this week which she had been avoiding and loathing. She immediately started writing a short chapter book. Now she is happily writing away and I am happy to see her making progress.

Bears ~ The saga of bears visiting our yard continues practically every day. We reviewed black bear safety this week and acted out what to do if one encounters a bear. We look  around real carefully before leaving the house nowadays, since the bears especially like our carport.
A baby bear in our tree
A New Adventure ~ A mother and daughter we have known for some time have decided to embark on the homeschooling journey. They asked if we might want to do a trade off. I agreed and I will be teaching science for a few hours once a week, and she will be teaching art once a week. The kids are all within a year of each other and go to the same dance studio. Hopefully, it will be a delightful experience for everyone.

Books, Books, Books! ~ Another homeschool mom blessed me with four boxes of books. She knows I sell on eBay to supplement my kids' dance classes. Some of them will be donated to the various Little Free Library boxes located around town, but some of them had value and are already making me money on Ebay. I feel very blessed. 

Mean Words vs. Banter ~  I have been hearing an increase in insults between Anne and Dean. So we did an exercise this week in choosing words carefully. I gave them a tube of toothpaste and told them to squeeze it all out onto a plate. They did so with delight. 
Then I told them to put it back in the tube. They were unable to do so. I told them that the toothpaste tube was their mouth and the toothpaste was their words. You can never take back your words. You can and should apologize, but it will always be messy and broken.

The moral to this is to always choose our words carefully and try only to speak kindness -- a challenge even to an adult to be sure. 

Dean Made a 3D Viewer ~ Those who hang around my blog know that Dean loves his monthly subscription box, Tinker Crate. He had a fantastic time with the latest offering. 

Anne's New Space ~ Anne is loving using my antique desk for her alone time schooling. She keeps it neat and sweet (although you can't tell from all of the crumbs on the desk in the picture).

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reviewing Bear Safety

The bear activity in our neighborhood has been very high this spring and summer. We have a mother bear and two cubs visiting our street and yard daily. In fact, my husband and dog got up close and personal with the bears in our backyard twice in the past two weeks. Once recently, our dog chased the mother bear out of the yard. She ran away, but as soon as she got on the opposite side of the fence, she stood up and roared at the dog and my husband. Then last night, two baby bears were in our backyard and ran up a tree when they heard our dog barking. Luckily, my husband saw them from a good distance and was able to get Boomer (dog) back into the house quickly. They had a field day with our trash cans and trapped us in our house for about an hour. We didn't see mom. We see them walking through our yard or down the road several times a week. So now we are not letting the dog play in the backyard anymore.

All this to say, we really need to review bear safety with our children. Below is a list of suggestions.
  • Do not approach or sneak up on a bear.
  • If the bear stops its activity, you are too close.
  • Never turn your back on a bear or run from a bear.
  • Slowly back up and make lots of noise.
  • Raise your arms above your head and wave them vigorously.
If a black bear attacks you, fight like mad. Use anything you have as a weapon. Never play dead with a black bear.

We will be ordering an air horn. It will hopefully scare away bears and warn others inside that someone in the yard is in trouble. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Week 3 ~ Making Changes Already

We had a successful week. It was a crazy week in which I was fitting school in around life's edges. We had seven appointments this week. Only one had anything to do with school. There is also a huge amount of extended family drama going on right now, which is a distraction to our daily lives. With a high-end special needs family, this is an issue that seems to come up at least once a month. In the past, I would have looked at my planner and crammed in the learning around everything else. This time, I just made two goals for each day -- independent reading and one more subject. We did more than that each day, but that is all I wrote down for the week.

Changes ~ I decided after a long discussion with Anne to drop the curriculum she was using for music appreciation. She will still be having music appreciation but we are setting Zeezok aside. We love Zeezok and have used it for years. The truth is, though, she already knows most of what the curriculum had to offer, and what she doesn't know she could learn in a matter of days as an adult, if she needed it. As a person working toward owning a dance studio; Anne feels that she needs to know many genres of music, know how to play an instrument and be able to read music. I agree that she already has a good grasp of the classics. So now she will be moving on with taking at-home piano lessons, studying as many musicals as we can, exploring different genres of music and continuing to learn how to read music.

Last Weekend ~ We attended our church retreat last weekend. We were granted a full scholarship which made that wonderful weekend possible. Our church is a graying church and there are only about 18 kids under 18 in the congregation. As it turned out, Dean and Anne were the only kids who attended last weekend. The youth leaders held activities even though there were only two kids, so they got loads of one-on-one attention. They enjoyed the lake immensely, talked about being a positive person in the world and played chimes for the Sunday morning service. They also got tons of accolades from a dozen or so individuals. It is really nice to hear so many people complimenting our children.

The School Week ~ 
  • Anne discovered Great Illustrated Classics. Did you know that there are 70 titles in this series? She loves them. She has read in the past week Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and  Peter Pan. She started Oliver Twist.
  • Dean is still reading the same book, The Night Gardener. I am a bit concerned about the speed of his reading. It seems very slow to me. I will be watching that over the next few weeks to determine if there is something I need to do.
  • We read Anne of Green Gables and are almost done.
  • Anne started at-home piano lessons.
  • Dean played at least an hour each day on either the piano, guitar or tenor ukulele.
  • Anne completed a lesson in her spelling book, but she still needs to take the spelling test for the week.
  • We played lots of board games (Imagine If, 10 Days in Asia, Take Out, Art Shark, and Apples to Apples) and completed the Harry Potter puzzle.
  • We did three science experiments in which two failed or barely worked. 
  • Dean completed seven pages in his Wordly Wise book.
  • We did a chapter in  Life of Fred Fractions most days.
  • The kids made hot sauce from our peppers, picked our grapes and made grape juice, and also made jello, guacamole and mac and cheese. 
  • We did just a touch of history with Washington, DC History for Kids: The Making of a Capital City with 21 Activities.
  • CNN Student News started back up -- much to the kids' delight.

Out and About School-Related Activities ~ The kids went swimming with Grandma. Dean started Robotics Club and Anne tagged along to play with other homeschoolers.

What I Am Reading ~ I am really enjoying A Different Kind of Teacher by John Taylor Gatto. I find that it is just what I needed for advice during this transition of helping my kids take responsibility for their own education. I am sure I will have much more to say about it in the coming weeks. I am also reading Worldchanging 101 Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness by David LaMotte. I picked this one up at the church retreat book sale. It is another thought-provoking book. 

They guys are hopefully going to get the rest of the shed they pulled down a few weeks ago to the landfill today. Anne and I are going to start organizing for two yard sales that we are participating in soon. The guest room/office is a mess of stuff to sort into Ebay, Goodwill and yard sale piles. I love to reduce our stuff and make money at the same time. We are busy saving for dance classes. It is nice to start with a bit put by before classes even start. 

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

TOS Review ~ Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
Are you always looking for non-media things that will entertain your children. I am! We have found through the years that puzzles have lots of staying power and can entertain the children for long periods of time. We just adore puzzles and games. We were very excited to have the opportunity to review the Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle from Enlivenze LLC. This puzzle is Level 2 and is suggested for ages 7 and up. Level 1 is also for ages 7 and up but is easier than Level 2. There is no way any pieces could come out of the cylinder, so it is safe for young children. It is a good puzzle to take along on car trips, too.
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
I was especially excited to receive the Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle, since we went to New York City this summer and saw the real Statue of Liberty. This is a unique puzzle because it is self-contained in a cylinder. It is a 3D puzzle in which you use a stick to move the puzzle pieces around within the cylinder until you complete the puzzle. The instructions are to shake, stir, solve. It is harder than you think! It retails for $24.95.
Our family took to it immediately. Anne (12) and Dean (14) were able to solve it after many hours of effort. They did not solve it in one sitting. However, my husband solved it in less than 20 minutes!! He wouldn't tell us the secret to his method so we struggled on for a long time. I never managed to solve it, which really isn't a huge surprise if you know me. 
The company carries five different FlipStir Puzzles. They are Rainbow Pencils, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Solar System, Statue of Liberty and Periodic Table. To see other reviews from the TOS Crew, click on the banner below.
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

TOS Review ~ Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
I had an opportunity to review a new and exciting immersion Spanish program from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids. I received Starter Set 1. Learning a foreign language is very helpful to children. Did you know a bilingual brain is actually physically larger than a monolingual brain?! The complete set retails for $140.25. This set comes complete with the below items:
  • A 20 week curriculum guide that is filled with games and activities to help the parent extend the lessons.
  • A DVD that holds the first three video stories, "Basketballs aren't for Breakfast," "The Little Magic House Part I" and "The Little Magic House Part II".
  • Three workbooks (one for each video).
  • Sticker set that goes with the first story, "Basketballs aren't for Breakfast".
  • Flashcards that go which each story.
A card game called Go Squish is also being given out while supplies last.
Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
This unique program is an immersion program intended for the elementary years. The workbooks are intended for 3rd grade and up, but the videos could be used for even younger children. What makes this program unique is that its approach is based in conversation. Most of us learned our first languages hearing words in context. This program simulates language the way we learned it as very young children. The program has workbooks which help with basic grammar. The pages are bright and fun.

How we used this program ~ My son is 14. He has limited exposure to Spanish. He watched the lessons in order several times a week. He looked over the workbooks and did some of the pages. He did not want to play the game but liked some of the extended activities, such as cooking ethnic meals and doing culture research. 

What he thought ~ He found the videos a little bit goofy, but easy to understand. He liked the signs of the most important vocabulary words throughout the video. For example, the dog is wearing a shirt with a vocabulary word on it. He thought that the words were repeated enough to be able to follow the story. Also, all of the visuals made the story obvious. He thought that the workbooks were "nicely produced and easy to follow". He found that he quickly started picking up the words and was able to go on to additional lessons. 
What I thought ~ This program reminds me of my college immersion beginner Spanish class, although this program is geared toward children and is presented in a very child-friendly way. The everyday activities are very easy for a child to relate to and also enhance their chances of following the story. I have a significant learning disability in foreign language that was discovered in college. Even though I have two years of Spanish and grew up hearing it in my community, my vocabulary is still very limited. Even conversational Spanish is very difficult for me. I found the words to be very clearly stated in the video, and I was able to retain a few more that I had forgotten over the years. I really like the bright and colorful workbooks. They are not overwhelming. 
I would recommend this program for elementary school. It is easy and fun. To see other reviews click on the banner below.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 12, 2016

Week 2 ~ Finding Our Groove

We had a great second week of school. I kept myself in check and didn't push the kids through subjects at all (ahem)! One of my major goals -- okay the most important goal to me this year -- is to relax and let the kids learn at their own pace. I will still be directing what they learn (with a bit of their input), but we will be working at whatever pace they set. If they are enjoying a family read-aloud immensely, then we will continue it even if it is more than the two chapters I had planned. Furthermore, if I find something isn't working or there is a lack of interest, we will learn the bare minimum required and in a way that sticks for them. I very much felt like I was dragging my son through his education last year. I do not intend to work harder than him for a minute this year. This is his education, after all. This year is all about learning what needs to be covered but also reigniting the joy of learning that has been fading in recent years.
We discovered which will float. The one with sugar has a higher mass and therefore sinks.
What we did this week ~
  • We read the interesting parts of Washington, DC History for Kids: The Making of a Capital City with 21 Activities. We will do some of the activities next week.
  • We read and did the first five chapters and review pages of Life of Fred Fractions.
  • Anne did 10 pages in Math U See (fractions).
  • We very much enjoyed our new family read-aloud, Anne of Green Gables
  • We watched the movie, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. It is not nearly as good as the book.
  • Dean began his at-home lessons on the piano. I was pleased to see how much he remembered from when he took lessons as a six year old. He is working independently through an adult beginners book.
  • Dean learned two new songs from his guitar book.
  • Anne started her Writers in Residence program and her new cursive handwriting book.
  • We did a little bit of science and wrapped up density and the introduction to the periodic table of elements.
  • Dean did one lesson in his independent U.S. history course and did the activity for the lesson (tying three different kinds of knots). 
  • Dean did a few lessons in Wordly Wise 3000 Book 9.
  • We went to a local small aquarium that was about the size of a storefront. However, they had a really neat display of shark eggs held up to the light. You could see the baby sharks swimming around in their eggs.
  • We did cotton candy science.
Cotton candy science
Shark eggs
The main thing that the kids wanted to do this week was work on their back to school 550 piece Harry Potter Puzzle. Anne was especially in love with the puzzle and picked it first every day. They spent hours working on it this week. This is where I had to struggle with letting them go at their own pace. I struggled with whether or not this activity was educational enough. So I did some research on jigsaw puzzles. I knew they were good, but I didn't realize how many benefits they had. Here is a list of what my kids are working on this year that is covered by jigsaw puzzles: 
  • social interaction
  • analysis
  • categorizing
  • attention to detail
  • collaboration
  • flexibility (I will try another area when I get stuck)
  • concentration
  • memory retention
  • organization
  • contrast
  • patience
  • perseverance
  • spacial orientation skills
  • sequence
  • sharing behavior
  • problem solving

The list of educational benefits was much longer, but this is my kids' personal goals. So doing a puzzle was a win-win in our home. They were learning and loving learning. That is my ultimate point. 

Lastly, Dean did a great job on his physical therapy evaluation. He doesn't need to go back for 10 months!! We are so happy that his at-home program is working.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, August 7, 2016

TOS Back to School Hop ~ Curriculum

I use lots and lots of materials in our little homeschool. Now that I am on the review crew, we use even more. If I list everything we are going to use this year, it would be a very long list and bore you to tears. So I am going to list our core books for the year. These are the things that are tried and true in our home and will happen even if we end up in some kind of crisis. Most of them we have used for years. When you have a high-end, special needs family like ours, there is bound to be several crisis periods throughout the year.

I have a daughter in 7th grade and a special needs son in 8th and 9th grade this year. He is the correct age for 9th grade but not ready for full 9th grade classes. So he is doing a few courses in each grade.

Life of Fred -- Life of Fred Fractions through Life of Fred Pre-Algebra ~ We may do all five books of the Before High School series this year. However, my 7th grade daughter will probably just do the first two.

Teaching Textbooks ~ My daughter will be using 7th grade. My son may be coming back to Teaching Textbooks. This curriculum has worked well for us for many years.

A Reason for Spelling ~ My daughter will be finishing this program this year (hopefully). Spelling is her weakest subject.

For Kids with 21 Activities Series ~ We will be using five to eight books from this series this year. My kids really love to learn this way.

The Story of the World -- Volume 3 Early Modern Times ~ Both kids will be doing this course together. Dean will be doing U.S. History in addition as his ninth grade course. I will be putting it together with a variety of books, hands-on activities and field trips.

Real Science 4 Kids -- Chemistry, Physics, Geology ~ Dean is doing 9th grade physical science this year. Anne is doing general science. They will be doing science together, but Dean will be doing more text reading and lab time.

Tinker Crate ~ Dean will be doing Tinker Crates (science kit subscription) as part of his physical science. He LOVES Tinker Crates.

Writers in Residence ~ This will be my daughter's 7th grade writing program.

Cover Story ~ My son's 8th writing program.

Music Appreciation Program ~ Anne will be doing this program along with eight to ten musicals.

Family Reading and Unit Studies ~ Most of our literature this year is from our 100 Books for Middle School reading list and the Newberry Award Winners List.
  • Elijah of Buxton
  • Holes
  • Sing Down the Moon
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
  • Jacob Have I Loved
  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
  • The Twenty-One Balloons
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Hitty: Her First 100 Years (unit study for Above and Beyond Five in a Row)
  • Bright Island
  • Lassie Come Home (unit study with Memoria Press)
We will be using a host of other books. I am always on the lookout for things that will enhance our learning. The kids are also in dance classes ~ 10 hours a week for Anne and 4.5 hours a week for Dean. In addition, Dean will continue learning the guitar, piano and ukulele. He is also taking a robotics class with an EV3. 

5 Days of Homeschool 101
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 5, 2016

Week 1 ~ Stories

Our first week of school was a little different than I had planned but still successful, thanks to planning. The dance intensive that Anne and Dean attended this week proved to be, well, INTENSE. Both children were pushed out of their comfort zone, and Dean in particular really struggled. It is often very lonely being the only boy in a sea of dancing girls. Also, the ballet class was especially hard this time around and caused my perfectionist, highly-critical son a great deal of stress. They came home each day with a friend who needed childcare. So, we did get some additional school done, but not as much as I had hoped to complete. They were just too tired by the time they got home. Thankfully, they really love their dance lessons, even when it is really hard.

One thing I love so much about homeschooling is sharing wonderful stories with my kids. This week was filled with stories. We wrapped up our summer reading, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943). I loved this book as a child and was happy to finally share it with my youngest two. I waited to share it with them for years because it has many mature themes -- poverty, alcoholism, honesty or lack of in marriage and a near sexual attack on a minor. It also has many positive themes about family togetherness, importance of education, rising above struggles, saving and managing money, value of hard work, and sacrifice. It was a perfect book to complement our recent trip to New York City and the Tenement Museum. We hope to watch the movie in the next few days. 

A second story this week is the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We attended the Midnight Release party at Barnes and Noble on Saturday. Anne and I attended with two of her best friends, twins whose birthday happens to be the same as Harry Potter's. The girls were so excited to be out that late at night. The party attendees were sorted into Hogwarts Houses. Anne got into Gryffindor, much to her delight. 

We are enjoying the book. It is a play and the kids are learning more about keeping up with listening to a script being read by one person. We should be done with it in the next three days. (Well, I stayed up very late last night to finish reading the book, but we won't tell the kids. HA HA!)

The third story of the week was the original version of A Chorus Line. Anne is watching at least eight musicals this year as part of her music appreciation course. Once again, this has some mature themes; but since Anne is so interested in a career in dance, the movie was an irresistible choice. We watched it together and she loved most of it.

The last story of the week was the movie, Fame. The kids sang and danced to "I Sing the Body Electric" at the intensive this week. They came home wanting to see the entire movie. We decided on the 2009 version. Fame will count for Anne's music appreciation course. Anne enjoyed seeing both movies in one week. They were a good comparison of the joys and struggles of following a career in dance. I appreciate that, so far, Anne has "kept her head" about a career in dance. She realizes that it is hard work and that very few end up on Broadway, in a large traveling dance company, dancing on a famous cruise ship or being a Rockette. Thankfully, she has always been family-oriented and doesn't really want dance to be the only thing in her life. She is content, so far, with more obtainable goals --such as being a dance teacher, dancing in a small company, and maybe owning her own dance studio some day.

We also started science this week. We reviewed density, atoms and molecules. We did six different density experiments from the book, 150 Captivating Experiments, and covered the first chapter in Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry.

We had a good first week back to school. We will have to double up on math next week, since we didn't do any this week.

Blessings, Dawn