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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Wrap-Up ~ Paul Klee, Rock Explorations and A Breakthrough...

We had a really good week. I think we have finally figured out at least part of what's going on with Dean and his depression and physical ailments. He was having an especially rough night a few weeks ago, so out of desperation, I put all of his symptoms into Google. It came up with two options ~ a stroke or a B12 deficiency. Since you can't have a stroke for 8+ months, I started researching B12 deficiency. Oh my, it was so obvious. It wasn't a huge surprise to realize that he was deficient in nutrients. Dean has always struggled with absorbing nutrients. In years past, his doctors have blamed the problem of not getting enough nutrients on his having a leaky gut. While I believe this is part of it, we have worked very hard on repairing his gut for years. It seemed like there must be something more. Then my Mother, who is our family's research queen, stumbled upon the methylation process. It seems like another piece to the puzzle has been found. 

Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is the enzyme necessary for an important metabolic process called methylation. It is this process that converts folate and folic acid (forms of vitamin B9) into an active form the body can use. For instance, folate activates vitamin B12. The MTHFR gene produces this enzyme, but a genetic mutation can inhibit its function. This mutation is surprisingly common in our country. Genetic testing would have to be done in order to definitively determine if Dean has it. However, it does no harm to simply give him the supplements that would support the methylation process. 

Methyl groups control:
  • The stress (fight-or-flight) response
  • The production and recycling of glutathione — the body's master antioxidant
  • The detoxification of hormones, chemicals and heavy metals
  • The inflammation response
  • Genetic expression and the repair of DNA
  • Neurotransmitters and the balancing of brain chemistry
  • Energy production
  • The repair of cells damaged by free radicals
  • The immune response, controlling T-cell production, fighting infections and viruses and regulating the immune response
We had noticed a slight improvement after he started SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplements about three weeks ago. One of the most important processes SAMe is involved in is methylation, in which it acts as a methyl donor to support a multitude of chemical reactions. So last week, we started him on methylated B12 and other supplements supportive of the methylation process. In just one week we have seen a huge improvement in mood and ability to cope with stress. His hands aren't numb anymore, and he is sleeping much better. He has more energy and is more motivated to help himself. It is a huge blessing! He still has lots of B12 deficiency symptoms and we have lots of work to do. But, I am more hopeful than I have been in months. He has to take these every day, but he is happy to do it so that he can feel better. Today I am starting him on folate, which is the methylated version of folic acid. 

Paul Klee ~ My Mother taught us about the Swiss-German artist Paul Klee this week. She then let us choose from Klee's many diverse styles to create our own art work. Most of us chose to try our hands with his grid painting style. The kids really delighted in this project. They had so much fun. I rather enjoyed myself as well.

Avocado by Dean

All Seeing Eye by Anne
Knowledge Pushing Away Darkness by Me
Geology Field Trip ~ We also had fun on our field trip to identify sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks at a local gem store. The kids enjoyed themselves and found many of the specimens depicted on their worksheets. 

We got all of our seat work done as well. Tomorrow, I hope to post our plans for the last few weeks. I can't believe we are almost done!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Our Favorite Things This Year

With only four weeks of school to go, I am reflecting on what we loved this school year.

New York City ~ What an amazing opportunity it was to take our kids to New York City this year! We were exposed to a whole new environment and had a fantastic time. Every week that goes by, there has been some mention of our trip or a wish expressed to go back some day. It truly was an amazing and educational few days. Our budget is tight, but I would really like to do one smashing trip a year during their high school years. Seeing the country and learning about new cultures has always been one of my top goals.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ~ Like all of the other Harry Potter books, we absolutely loved this book. It being written in play form was an interesting twist. We can't wait to see the play some day (maybe on Broadway)!

Jigsaw Puzzles ~ We put together about a dozen jigsaw puzzles this year. We seem to be stuck at the 500 piece level. Puzzles will be part of Anne's logic course next year so we have already have a stack saved for then.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ~ I love this book. I think I love it a fair amount more than my kids. However, they enjoyed it, too. It fit perfectly with our trip to NYC and the Tenement Museum.

Watching Musicals ~ We watched six musicals this year as part of Anne's study of music. She liked Fame and West Side Story the best.

Poetry Teas ~ I only managed to pull off a couple poetry teas this year. I have received a few complaints about that. I hope to do better next year.

Art with Miss Laura ~ Dean has really enjoyed taking art with Miss Laura. He has made great strides in drawing this year. She has presented some exciting opportunities for him. He currently is working on a mural that will be posted on a wall on a main street downtown for three months!!
Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

Bessie's Pillow ~ We loved this book. It is a real winner and tied in with our NYC trip!

Science Field Trips with our Friend, Rose ~ We didn't get to do nearly as many homeschool science field trips as I had hoped to do. However, we did have a great time on the ones we did. I hope to squeeze out two more before calling quits for the year.

Netflix Streaming ~ We enjoyed watching American Genius, Nature's Weirdest Events, The World's Worst Disasters, The Royals and so much more.

Performing in the Nutcracker ~ This is a major part of our lives each year, since my children love to perform. This was their sixth year in The Nutcracker and they were completely independent. They didn't need me at all. They are maturing into beautiful and gifted performers that are completely responsible.

CNN Student News ~ This continues to be my kids' favorite way to start school. I like that the program changed this year to depicting more in-depth discussions about topics. It reminds me of the Scholastic Weekly Readers we used to get in school.

Dance and Guitar lessons ~ Out-of-the-home classes are a major part of the kids' lives. Anne has managed more than 10 hours of dance classes a week this year. She would let anyone know that she doesn't feel pushed enough and could easily do more. In fact, we are adding another ballet class weekly which will bring her up to 12 hours of dance a week. Dean has managed well with his additional dance, art and guitar lessons. He is out of the home at lessons about 8 hours a week. He loves his guitar teacher and is a quick learner.

Swimming with Grandma ~ Grandma takes them to the YWCA pool several times a month. They really love the time in the water. We hope to make this a more regular part of next school year.

Math ~ I am not sure I can really claim that math is anyone's favorite ~ lol. But I do want to record what they liked the best this year of the multiple math programs we used. They liked Kumon Math Pre-Algebra, Khan Academy, living math and Math Mammoth.

Board Games ~ It is no secret that we love board games. Our favorites this year were Wizard Chess, Harry Potter Clue, Quelf, Quizmo, Stratego and Exploding Kittens.

The Wandering Swordsmen ~ Taking classes and playing boffing with the Wandering Swordsmen has been a highlight this year. Dean loves to go play with all of the other teens. He even had his birthday party there last month. For those who don’t know, boffing is a sport based on compassionate combat, using foam padded implements representing swords, shields, arrows, and other gear that is designed to safely come into realistic physical contact with the players. No one tries to hurt each other and it involves a lot of trust and honor. 

These have been some wonderful memories this school year.
Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review ~ The Secret Bridge

The Secret Bridge {Lamplighter Publishing Reviews}

We had the pleasure of reviewing the lovely book, The Secret Bridge from Lamplighter Publishing. This is a sweet coming-of age story about a young woman who finds herself alone and poor in a new country. Bridget is very headstrong and doesn't want to rely on the dashing stranger who is more than willing to help her. Bridget states in the beginning that she doesn't believe in God but her attitude changes throughout the book. As her relationship blooms with the dashing Godfrey Bullingham, she finds herself being drawn closer to God as well. This is a romance, but also a journey in her love for Christ. She is soon a young bride and is faced with many difficult decisions. The book is 261 pages long and geared toward middle school/ high school. It is written by Amy Le Feuvre.

Lamplighter Publishing is well known for providing wonderful books that depict Christian characters and supporting the development of good Christian characteristics and biblical growth through great literature. This book certainly fits their criteria.

The Secret Bridge {Lamplighter Publishing Reviews}

My daughter was excited as soon as she saw this book arrive. It is a very nice hardcover book with an embossed cover. There is even gold on the front. She was very impressed. She is 13 and a struggling reader and was relieved when she saw that the print was a bit larger than is typical. We decided to read it together and spend some mother-daughter quality time. This insured that we would be able to read it at a faster pace. It did take us a few chapters to really understand the setting and get into the story. However, we were soon transported to a long time ago in England. The story quickly becomes a page turner.

 My daughter and I enjoyed this book. It is much deeper than I originally thought it would be. The story line is easy to follow and enjoyable. There is plenty of opportunities for spiritual growth and discussion. This book gets a thumbs up from our family. I am always pleased when I find tender books for helping my daughter grow into a strong, caring and capable woman. Although this story is filled with the past, it is every so easily related to our present day and growing our daughters in faith.

To see what others had to say on the review crew, click on the banner below.
The Secret Bridge {Lamplighter Publishing Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review ~ ArtAchieve

We were very pleased to receive Entire Level III of ArtAchieve. This is an exciting online art program that really brings different works of art to life and then teaches students in clear, step-by-step instructions on how to make their own art.

I must admit that my daughter (13) is not a huge fan of producing art. She enjoys learning about art and doing picture studies. However, when it comes to creating her own art, she lacks confidence and wants her art to be perfect, just like the masters. For this reason, she shies away from doing many art programs. ArtAchieve is different. She likes the explanations and very clean, step-by-step instructions. She still would prefer to skip art, but with this program she doesn't struggle against doing the assignment. 

Each lesson begins with a warm-up that helps the student get prepared to create. Then there is a short lesson on the piece of artwork and the history or cultural background of the artwork. My daughter especially likes that part of the lesson. Having the artwork tied into its culture is interesting to her. Next, the lesson goes through step-by-step instructions. Each lesson can be viewed in two ways ~ either through a video or a slide show. My daughter prefers the slide show, because it is less overwhelming and the pace is completely controlled by her. 

Each level presents a large variety of projects. There are 13 lessons in Level III. The lessons expose the student to different mediums and cultures. My daughter worked with pastels, watercolor and acrylic paints, as well as both colored and drawing pencils. There is even a project that works with aluminum foil, which my daughter did not choose to do. The lessons do not have to go in order. I also love that the projects are unique. I haven't seen the same lessons anywhere else on the Internet. 
I really like ArtAchieve. A student can work with this program completely independently as long as the materials for each lesson are provided by the parent. The majority of the materials required would be found in a homeschool classroom. I love that a bit of history and culture are provided throughout each lesson. This program fits very nicely into our little homeschool, because the lessons can stand on their own and fit into whatever we are currently learning. If we are studying Russia, I can send my daughter off to learn how to draw the Russian Matryoshka.  If we are talking about Canada Geese and why our homeschool is called Geesecrossing Homeschool, I can send her to do the lesson on Canada Geese. 
I love it when I can tie several different resources together to make a full and rich experience for my kids. This program is a wonderful asset to my home. I also feel that each level can be picked based on the projects you want to do with your child. They do not get that much harder from level to level, so a middle school student could start in any level. 
To see what other crew members on the homeschool review crew have to say, click on the banner below. We review different levels. 
Art Lessons Inspired From Around the World {ArtAchieve Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Solid Week ~ Finding Our Way Through

It is hard to believe that April is nearly gone! My youngest son turns 15 this weekend! This past year has been tough for him. I pray that 15 proves a more positive year for him. I do see little glimmers of his depression lifting ~ just a bit. It is hard work every day, but worth the effort to see an occasional smile.

This week only had one really rough day emotionally for our son and our family. That is an improvement over most weeks. One thing that is helping is encouraging exercise. This is kind of a funny statement, considering how much dance my kids do. However, it seems my son needs to do even more -- and preferably outdoors. We spent one sunny day at the arboretum, and I got a few fantastic shots of the kids leaping.

Another day found us walking the newest section of the greenway our city is building along the river.

As always, encouraging sibling love and compassion is at the front of my thoughts. Even if the world outside is hard to take, your family is always, always there for you. One way our family has always connected is with board games. They bring lots of laughter into our home. We added Quelf, Harry Potter Scene It, and Exploding Kittens to our collection of board games this week. I love lucky finds at consignment shops!

We continue to strive to pull farther back from social media and online gaming. Both, have caused a fair amount of sadness to our home. We decided to let the kids keep Instagram, but it is very heavily monitored by us. We have returned to some old school computer games that require a CD 😉 and one online game that is heavily monitored and designed for parents to enforce safety for their kids. Some of these restrictions have been tough on our son, but they have resulted with him feeling somewhat more comfortable and secure.

It is no secret that this has been a rough year in our little homeschool. I am not saying that it hasn't been filled with quality, but it has also been filled with trials, changes, regrouping, changes again and just plain burnout at times. As I look back over the year, I am pleased with our accomplishments and all that we learned. The kids continue to grow and stretch. If anything, one of the main frustrations has been the kids complaining that they already know much of what we studied this year. I didn't intend for it to be a review year, but in some subjects it turned out to be just that. I do feel like they are solid in what they do know and are ready to move forward next year. Even Anne is finally grasping all things about fractions. We have come back to fractions time and time again over the last two years in every educational way imaginable, and fractions are finally starting to consistently click. We are relying heavily on videos as we enter our last five weeks of school. One common thread that has been a great success this year are educational videos. We have watched some excellent movies and documentaries. We discovered Ted-Ed. We love the short lectures with discussion and questions. 

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review ~ Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”

Drive Thru History The Gospels

We had the pleasure of reviewing Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”  from Drive Thru History®. This is a delightful DVD program that takes students on a journey through the life of Jesus, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Dave Stotts traces the life of Jesus through over 50 ancient sites. We enjoyed seeing and hearing about the real places where Jesus once walked. 

Drive Thru History

This three DVD set has nearly nine hours of playing time and includes 18 episodes, as well as a 118 page book filled with discussion questions, suggested reading, a summary of each episode and side "road" notes that help dig a bit deeper. The DVDs are filled with gorgeous vistas and the cinematography is very high quality. Dave Stotts is entertaining and also keeps the viewers focused on the adventure. He explains all of the sites well and encourages the viewer to read more and dig further into the life of Jesus. I can't think of a more painless way to learn the Gospels. As always, Dave Stotts and Drive Thru History® is family friendly. Although this program is geared for older elementary through adult, even the youngest pupil would gain information from watching this series. 

Drive Thru History The Gospels

How We Used It ~ We used this program as a supplement to our world history program. This is a very busy time of year for our family, with multiple dance shows to prepare for in addition to the typical end-of-year sluggishness. My teens are ready for the school year to wrap up. They found curling up in front of the television to watch another episode very enjoyable and a nice break from the daily routine. We picked one discussion question to talk about for each episode. However, they mostly just watched and listened to the episodes in a more relaxed fashion. The kids managed to complete the entire series. 

Drive Thru History The Gospels

What We Thought ~ We liked the program. My daughter thought that it was explained well and that Dave Stotts is funny. However, she still thought that the information came a bit too quickly. She is a child who generally prefers books and worksheets to videos for information. She thought the discussion questions helped her to digest the information. My son thought the program was easy to understand and that the story line was entertaining. He loved the jeep that Dave Stotts drives throughout the series. I thought that this series was even better than other Drive Thru History® series I have seen in the past. The pace was a bit slower and more focused, which I appreciated. I loved the cinematography. In the book, I loved the side "road" notes. They were helpful, Also, the discussion questions were great and really helped to round out the program. My kids learned and laughed through this program. That gets a thumbs up from me!

To see what others had to say on the review crew, click on the banner below. 

The Gospels {Drive Thru History® Reviews}

Blessings, Dawn