Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Break ~ Week 4

We had a good week filled with progress. Each week of summer break will be a bit different. This week, Dean was in camp and Anne and I spent our days finding a balance between projects and play. Each day I required myself to spring clean a room, make an important phone call (to vet, doctors, and social worker) and to load two things on eBay. I accomplished my mission each day.

We celebrated Father's Day with a tubing expedition down our local river. It was our first time and  we had great fun.
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Monday through Friday ~ On Monday Dean went back to theater day camp, and Anne and I settled into the routine of getting our work done in the morning and then watching a Harry Potter movie each day. We had fun food each day, too. Our favorites were smoothie bowls, mashed potato bowls, Mochi ice cream (ice cream in a Japanese sweet dough) and Oreo cookies dipped in milk. It was a fun and peaceful week. I am especially happy that I got almost all of the rooms cleaned. Now I just have to start sorting our belongings and getting rid of things. I really want next school year to be less overwhelming, and one of the keys to that is getting my house to almost take care of itself. My motto is Less Stuff =Less Mess!

Wow! It really is a quick update this week.

Books I Read this Summer ~

  • Week 1 ~ $2.00 a Day: Living On Almost Nothing In America
  • Week 2 ~ Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products 
  • Week 3 ~ Water Cooler Diaries: Women Across America Share Their Day at Work
  • Week 4 ~ Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day
Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unlock Math Review

UnLock Math Algebra 1
Math has become a dreaded subject for my son this year. He really struggled with pre-algebra and was less then thrilled about moving on to algebra. I was offered Unlock Algebra1 from Unlock Math as a review product. I was so excited to try this new product with my son. UnLock Math
This is an online program. I found it very easy to register and find my way around the website. Each lesson has five parts. The first part is a warm-up to review past math concepts. Then the students watch a video. Next the students practice the concepts they have just learned online. They then go on to the Stay Sharp and Challenge Yourself sections. Lastly, there are reference notes that can be printed out. There are quizzes and a unit test for each unit. There are nineteen units in Unlock Algebra1. 

What My Son Thought ~ It is important to realize that my son was completely burned out on math at the time we got this product to review. Trying to find a fit, he had switched curriculum four times during his 8th grade year. He also has a long list of special needs and learning challenges. My son was very upset about trying out this math program. He really resisted me and I could barely get him to start the first lesson. He started with the pre-algebra review section, which is at the beginning of Unlock Algebra1 and found it less painful than he had expected. He found the videos clear and understandable. He thought the teacher was engaging and "friendly". However, he begged to go back to his workbooks after just a few lessons. Since it was the end of the year, I let him return to the math he was more comfortable doing. 

What I Thought ~ I picked up where he left off and did a few more lessons. I liked the format and videos. I especially liked the reference sheets that could be printed out and put into a notebook for study and reinforcement. I thought the material was well explained and the directions were easy to follow. I think I will try this program again with my son in August when we start back to school. However, I don't think I will continue with this program once the subscription ends, because the program costs $299 a year. That price is really out of my price range. I do think it is a bit pricey for many families unless they are really struggling with math and need to channel much of their resources toward this subject. I did, however, think that this program would be very helpful for a struggling student. I also like that it does all of the grading and recording. I like that I can access progress reports and that there is unlimited practice allowed. I did not request help, but they do say you can communicate with the teacher if you have questions. 

This is a solid program that is definitely worth consideration. To see what others on the review crew had to say, click on the banner below. Those of us on the review crew explored and reviewed different levels. 
Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Summer week 3 ~ How One Looks at Things

This week has been one of those weeks where attitude makes all the difference. It was one of those, "Is your cup half full or half empty?" kind of weeks. Even though there was a lot of hardship, this week was filled with positive moments!

The Positives ~
  • Dean had a marvelous time at his first week of camp. It was the happiest we have seen him all year. I am so grateful that he is turning the corner on his depression. Each week gets a bit smoother for him. He has one more week of camp.
  • Anne's Cecchetti ballet teacher offered to train Anne for free (beyond her paid for dance classes) in the Cecchetti method and help her prepare for the level 4 exam next spring. We are so grateful for this opportunity that will really help build Anne's dance resume.
  • I was able to read most of a third book this week. This is really amazing for me to be able to find the time to read a complete book three weeks in a row!
  • Dean and Anne spent hours this week doing the things they love -- acting camp, dance, playing musical instruments and exercise/stretching.
  • Our family is safe, well fed, well sheltered, resilient and blessed!

The Negatives with a Positive Twist
  • My Mother spent part of the week in the hospital with kidney stones. I was not very impressed with the care she received during this time. I arrived one day and she hadn't been give anything to drink in more than 7 hours, and she was supposed to be drinking extra water. The nursing staff seemed overwhelmed and had missed providing basic care to her. Thankfully, a few choice words quietly delivered got her care improved immediately and for the rest of her stay.
  • Our hamster died. She was very old, healthy and active until her death and died in her sleep. We should all be so blessed.
  • Our minivan needed some large repairs this week. The AC went a few weeks ago and then the side sliding door got stuck open. My dear husband had to drive it 15 miles to the repair shop with the door stuck open. This was the second side door that has needed to be repaired on this minivan. Thankfully, it was all fixed for less than our research suggested it would cost, and we had enough money in savings to foot the bill. We have a cool ride with working doors again!
Books I Have Read this Summer ~  
  • Week 1 ~ $2.00 a Day: Living On Almost Nothing In America
  • Week 2 ~ Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products 
  • Week 3 ~ Water Cooler Diaries Women Across America Share Their Day at Work

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer Break ~ Week 2 -- Ballet, Murals and Testing!

Monday ~ Monday was a crazy day filled with driving from point A to B to C and back again. We drove 98 miles. Anne started her summer ballet classes at a new studio. For this summer, she intends to do ballet classes only at this new studio and hopefully make some great gains. They teach the Cecchetti Method of ballet. She may even take an exam in Cecchetti next year. In the fall, she will return to the dance studio she has been with since the age of six. Dean worked hard on his mural. He is hoping to have it done this week.


Tuesday ~ Anne and I went out to lunch with a friend of mine who is homeschooling her young special needs student. We had a lovely discussion. I can't believe how close I am to being at the end of this journey. Talking to a mom who is negotiating first grade is shocking. It seems like yesterday. We then spent the afternoon doing end-of-year testing. We wrapped the day up with shopping. Each child was allowed one piece of clothing as their end-of-year treat.

Wednesday ~ We stayed home most of the day doing lots and lots of chores. I finally got the office/guest room under control. We also hosted a friend's children for the afternoon. Their father is in the hospital, and they needed a few hours to decompress from the all the stress that entails. They loved playing the game, Quelf.

Thursday ~ Thursday found Dean working like crazy on his mural again. Then the students in the art class went swimming afterward at their instructor's pool. Anne and I managed to work tons on eBay and stretch a ham into eight meals!! We made two quiche, two casseroles, a ham dinner, 12 sandwiches, and Hopping John.

Friday ~ Dean spent more time working on his mural. He hopes to finish on Sunday. We also went swimming and spent time organizing around the house. I am starting to see some progress!

What I am reading this summer ~
  • Week 1 ~ $2.00 a Day: Living On Almost Nothing In America
  • Week 2 ~  Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products
This weekend is jam-packed with activities. Yes, summer is well underway!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 8, 2017

MarshMedia ~ Review

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

Today I would like to talk about the company MarshMedia. This company produces health and safety videos which can be streamed online for the school system, and now they are reaching out to the homeschool community. They have even put together a homeschool special.

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }
Who is MarshMedia ~ MarshMedia is owned and operated by  Dan and Brenna Witcher. They create health and safety videos that are purchased by the school system in the United States and a few other countries. The programs are geared toward kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. There are also a few programs that are for adults (teachers) to prepare for a crisis. MarshMedia  covers a large variety of topics. There are 54 videos to enjoy. Each program runs about 15 minutes. They are well known for their puberty videos.
  • Hygiene
  • Health
  • Safety
  • Puberty
  • Head Lice
  • Nutrition
  • School Shootings
  • Immune System Diseases
Each video is rented and streamed for 24 hours. You can watch the video more than once during that 24 hours.

How We Used This Product ~ I watched several of the videos without my children. I found most of them to be fun and educational. They are very clear and engaging. I decided to watch the video created for teachers to be prepared for a school shooting. When I worked in the school system 19 years ago in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, the schools across America were just starting to create policies for dealing with a school shooting. At the time, I thought some of the policies were crazy and I was curious to see if they had changed. Indeed, the video was very well done and the survival techniques that were taught were much better than when I was working in the school system. I thought that the advice was sound and that the program was presented in a thoughtful way.

I also had my teens watch a few of the videos. They were most interested in the video about AIDS. They had learned about AIDS previously and felt that the video was engaging and informative. My kids were less interested in the puberty videos; because they already knew all of the information, since they are a little bit old for this series. However, I did not see anything offensive about them. By the way, they really did not discuss sex education. They also skimmed through a few of the videos for younger students and thought that they were funny and would teach young kids a lot. They liked that many of the programs were animated and felt that young modern kids would really relate to them. 

If you are interested in using this product, they are providing a great homeschool special. This is their lowest price ever, and it is only for the homeschool community. Considering the rather steep cost of these programs normally, this is really a huge deal.

To see what others had to say about this product, click on the banner below.
MarshMedia Reviews

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Book of Trees ~ A Review

The Book of Trees Set
You will need to purchase the Peterson First Guide to Trees.
We love Memoria Press and were delighted to receive The Book of Trees for review. What a wonderful introduction to trees and botany. This was a perfect bridge for my children between earth science that they studied this year and biology that they will study next year.
Memoria Press
The Book of Trees curriculum comes with a student workbook, a teacher guide and a book called The Book of Trees. The student workbook is set up in the same style as many Memoria Press student books. Each lesson consists of a reading assignment from The Book of Trees, fill-in-the-blank questions, a diagram and labeling section and activity section. The lessons are not at all overwhelming, even for a slower reader. There are only about four pages to read for each assignment, and the workbook pages are clear and easy to read. Many of the activities draw the student out into nature to study bark or find leaves. There are also neat science experiments like drawing leaf pigment out of leaves. 
There are five units to this curriculum. The first four are intended for all students and the fifth unit is advanced work for the older student, so a family can work together. Each unit has a review and then there are lesson quizzes and unit tests in the teacher's guide. The units are listed below.
  • Unit I ~ The Root & Stem
  • Unit II ~ Leaves
  • Unit III ~ Flowers & Fruits
  • Unit IV ~ Observing Trees
  • Unit V ~ Advanced work Photosynthesis & Respiration
My daughter (13) liked that the reading text was large print. She liked all of the pictures and diagrams throughout the book. She found the reading material to be very informative, but not too wordy. She liked the layout of the workbook. The activities were her favorite part, since she is a hands-on learner. She found the style of learning in this curriculum to be comfortably familiar to her Charlotte Mason nature study upbringing. 

This curriculum could be used year round, but would be easier in the spring or summer when flowers are blooming on trees and kids want to wander in nature. 

I love that this curriculum has hands-on learning and yet encourages learning through the classical model. This is a wonderful botany study for a middle school student. I feel that my daughter was able to gain so much more knowledge about trees than she knew previously. The set of three books does not include the Peterson's First Guide to Trees. You will have to purchase that separately or do your own Internet search as we did.

As a teacher with some visual difficulties who has always struggled with tracking skills while reading, I often find answer keys to be very difficult. The answer keys often have all of the answers bunched up in columns that are in a different format than the student workbook questions. This is not the case for Memoria Press teacher guides. The answer key is set up using the exact format as the student workbook. This makes it easier for me to quickly grade the workbook. I really appreciate this, because it makes my life much easier. 

This program gets a thumbs-up from our family. We love Memoria Press and this program did not disappoint. Some other members of the review crew reviewed other programs. The Memoria Press Latin programs look great. To see all the reviews, click on the banner below.

Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, June 2, 2017

Summer Break ~ Week One

In this moment ~ Right now, I am listening to the teapot steaming. The rest of the house is quiet as the children are still asleep. My constant companion, Boomer the dog, sits next to me, hoping that I will drop some bagel crumbs for him.

Outside my window ~ The sun is shining and it looks like it will be a lovely day.

I am reading ~ $2.00 a Day - Living on Almost Nothing in America. What a thought-provoking book. If you need a gratitude boost or want to think about how America can become kind again and how to empower the poorest of the poor to survive, this book may be for you.

I am creating ~ I am creating an atmosphere filled with love and kindness in my home. I am teaching my children to take that love and kindness out into the world. My son is creating his mural. My daughter is creating her summer exercise schedule.
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Mural work continues
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It will be a monster looking over a mountain with a hot air balloon going by.
I am thankful for ~ I am thankful that communication with my children is strong. They still talk to me and share their joys, concerns, sorrows and dreams. They still seek guidance from me. There was a situation just this past week that resulted in a friend of theirs having a breakdown requiring hospitalization. Even though many friends were concerned for this person's safety, only a small handful -- including my two -- turned to a parent. I am very thankful for that.

I am going ~ Dance classes at their regular studio have finished for the summer, so we were home much more than usual. We did some shopping, went to an art class, power walked at the mall and took a walk at the Botanical Gardens.

I am watching ~ Death in Paradise and Victorian Slum.

I am hoping ~ I am hoping to drastically reduce our belongings this summer. We are really finding our house and land to be too much for our lifestyle. We are on-the-go people who are rarely home and should probably live in a 1200 square foot or under house or condo with very limited land to maintain. Instead, we are living in a 2000+ square foot home with an outbuilding and almost an acre of weed/tree/vine-infested yard that we inherited with this foreclosure. I believe that, if we could drastically reduce our belongings, we would be able to more easily clean our home and concentrate more on the yard work. Moving is an impossibility right now. Since the housing market is so tight and expensive, we can't even afford to downsize.

Around the house ~ I am busily taking things to consignment shops, selling on eBay and making a mountainous pile for a yard sale. I think it is going to get messier before it gets cleaner.

I am praying for ~ A few friends that are going through very difficult times, our world, our country (which I feel is very much on the wrong path currently), and my family.

I am looking forward to ~ Celebrating my 19th wedding anniversary with  my husband next week and another productive week at home.

A picture to share ~ 
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Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review ~ Heroes of History -- William Penn

YWAM Publishing
I was so delighted to receive the book, Heroes of History-- William Penn from YWAM Publishing for review. We had the opportunity to review a book from the Heroes of History series last year and loved it. We also received online access to a wonderful unit study to go along with our reading of William Penn. 
YWAM Publishing
I was especially excited to receive Heroes of History -- William Penn: Liberty & Justice for All because I was born into and raised in the Quaker faith. William Penn was a Quaker. We no longer attend a Quaker meeting, so I was excited to share my faith and its history with my children. I knew from previous experience with this series that it was very accurate to history and is a wonderful introduction to biographies for children and young adults. I was not at all disappointed. This book is simply fantastic.

We visited Philadelphia a few years ago, but did not get to visit William Penn's home, since it is a bit of a distance from downtown Philadelphia. We did, however, get to visit a Quaker Meetinghouse. Having this visit under the children's belts really made the story come to life. The book is a quick read with only 198 pages. The print is a nice size and easy to read for my middle school students. The story flows smoothly. The book is  filled with historical facts that are easily passed onto the reader throughout the story. I thought I knew a great deal about William Penn, but learned even more through this story. That is one of the things I really love about this series.There is much to learn from each book, even for a well-read adult.

We used this book as a family read aloud. We used the chapter discussion questions provided in the study guide to further our learning. We also enjoyed the students exploration section, which provided some hands-on learning. One thing that Quakers are known for is their charity work. We enjoyed learning about how they tirelessly worked to help Londoners during the Plague. The Quakers fed the starving, took in orphans and gathered up plague victims for burial. We also did not know anything about the Great Fire of London in 1666. While researching it, we found an awesome documentary that we watched on YouTube. 

The study guide is very complete. It includes 62 pages of learning and several workbook pages. The sections are as follows:
  • Key Quotes ~ I love the quote section.
  • Display Corner ~ This is a neat idea to have your children set up a display of things that they can relate to the person they are learning about.
  • Chapter Questions 
  • Student Explorations ~ There are so many ideas from creative writing projects to arts and crafts.
  • Community Links ~ This is a section that suggests different field trips that would tie in with the study of your history hero. We talked a lot about our trip to Philadelphia.
  • Social Studies ~ This section is filled with hands-on ideas to help the student learn about history.
  • Related Themes to Explore ~ This section is filled with great suggestions on topics in different subjects you could learn about. (Sample page shown below.)
  • Culminating Events ~ This last section helps the students wrap up all they have learned by hosting a "party" in the form of a peace treaty -- complete with food, stories, poster boards and a fun, entertaining event.

This book and unit study gets a thumbs up from our family. There is so much included in the unit study that there truly is something for everyone. To see what other review crew members had to say, click on the banner below.

Christian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Last Official Week of School!

Our 18th year of homeschooling has come to an end. We have completed our state's requirements plus so much more. However, there was a glitch with our testing and it hasn't arrived yet, so I will have to reopen school when that comes in. Also, Dean still has tons of work to do on his mural over the next few weeks so he will still be doing lots of art with Miss Laura. He loves art, so that isn't really work to him. Over the summer, we will be doing a few review products, and Dean will be keeping up with a little bit of math on most days. So our days will be much more relaxed, but still filled with learning.

The Mural Project ~ These three students each have a mural they will be painting for display next month here in our little city. They are laying down a grid on each large canvas board so that they will be able to transfer their drawings onto the mural boards.

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Performing ~ Anne and Dean have completed five out of eight shows of The Little Mermaid. They are both generally pleased with their performances. I have taken only a couple photos of them. Dean really hated his costumes and didn't want either of them shown. Anne is the princess in The Little Mermaid, and Dean is the priest as well as "dark water" during the storm that drowns almost everyone on board the prince's ship. It was announced this week that Dean made Junior Company and will be joining his sister next year. That means two kids in full Junior Company. There goes my bank account! We are so proud of them. They both work very hard to be accomplished dancers.
Anne getting dressed in her "wedding dress"
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Anne discovering the almost dead prince

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Anne as the princess dances with the prince

We finished off the year with an ice cream party. For years, the kids have been eyeing the Mammoth Sundae at the renovated Woolworth counter. It comes with 10 scoops of ice cream and 10 scoops of topping. Unfortunately, after buying it, the kids decided it was mostly gross! We won't be doing it again next year. However, it was an experience to remember. They only ate a little bit. The kids are used to much healthier food most of the time. Even the ice cream they usually eat is organic.
It took three ladies to make it!

We also watched the movie, The Giver.  It was excellent. It has been on my movie list all school year, so I'm glad we finally got around to watching it. Now, I just have to slip in watching Holes this summer.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review ~ The Typing Coach

The Typing Coach
I was delighted to have the opportunity to review The Typing Coach Online Typing Course from The Typing Coach recently. In this day and age, having strong typing skills is a must, and we certainly need more practice in our household.

The Typing Coach
My daughter (13) has been exposed to little typing courses and typing games since she was in preschool. She already knew how to place her hands in the right positions and sit properly. However, because of dyslexia and visual issues, typing has always been very slow and filled with errors. I was excited to try this systematic program with her. I was even more excited when I saw that the course had instructions for special needs and younger students. 
This program is a combination of audio, video and written instructions. There is a printable student workbook that the student will need for all of the practices. They do most of their practice work on a word processing page. We used notepad. Then the student takes typing practice and tests on the website using their workbook to copy from on the website. Then practice and test results are sent to the parent via email. The student is allowed to take tests more than once but must wait two days each time before taking it again. 
Before my daughter began, I printed out the student workbook and reviewed the website with her. The website is very easy to move around and is self-explanatory. She was able to use the website independently and take her time practicing each lesson. I like that the entire course is self-paced. The only timed activities are the tests and typing practice pieces for each lesson.
My daughter, the perfectionist, didn't really care for this program. Because of her learning challenges, she found the skill of looking from the paper she was testing from to the screen very difficult. She also struggled with losing her place on the copy work sheet while testing, which in turn slowed down her typing. She did show some improvement over the weeks. She did not really come away from this program with more confidence. It is a good thing she is headed for a career in the dance world and not the office world. She didn't make it to even 10 words per minute because of all of her errors. However, over time she may have. I think she also may have memorized the practice tests before she really got to a good word per minute stopping place. 
I think this is a good typing course for most people. We do have an extenuating circumstance because of my daughter's special needs. I have similar challenges and tried a few of the tests. I did not do much better. However, I felt that the layout and directions were excellent. The practice copy work and tests were interesting reading material. I wish there were more practice sheets for the very slow learner so that they could not memorize whole sentences, which defeats the purpose. Overall, I think this is a good typing program for upper elementary grades through adulthood. 
To see what others on the review crew had to say, click on the banner below.
The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tech Week With Illness

It is tech week here. The kids start performing eight shows of The Little Mermaid tonight. This week has been filled with making sure we have everything organized for the show. There has been last minute shopping trips for crazy things like tape that can stick your nude leotard to your skin so it doesn't move. Anne doesn't get to dance much with her friends and has struggled with sitting out big portions of classes for the last several weeks. Most of  Junior Company have the role of mermaids, but she has a lead role of being the princess who marries the prince at the end of the show. There are sometimes disadvantages to being in a lead role but much excitement, as well. Dean is in the group of dark water dancers (they drown the people on board the prince's ship) with his jazz class, plus has a small character role as the priest. It will be a different experience for them with much more solo and duet work on the stage.

We just had to get the Starbucks Mermaid drink which is on their secret menu. They whipped it up for us, and we had fun taste testing it. It was very good.

The rest of the week has been filled with struggling though a family cold. I seem to have it the worst, which is for the best since the children need to perform no matter what. We canceled out of some of our school time with our homeschool friend. However, we did do a few hours of fun science with her. We learned about the rock cycle and then made the rock cycle using Starburst candies. We chopped our Starbursts into sediment and then we pushed them together just a little bit to make "sedimentary rocks." Then we squeezed them a lot to simulate "metamorphic rocks." Lastly, we melted them on a hot plate and let them cool into "igneous rocks." 
Starbucks pieces

Sedimentary rock
Metamorphic rock
Igneous rock

We are basically done with all of our subjects, except for needing a bit more math and science. Anne has a little more home economics and Dean has some more english. We plan to push hard and finish next week. Then they will do their end-of-year testing the week after that. We also have several reviews going at the moment. Hopefully, we will finish up this hard year strong. Sometimes just perseverance is enough.

Blessings, Dawn