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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thinking About Next Year

I am thinking a great deal about what we will be doing next year. I would really like to spend less than $300 next year on books and materials, so that my homeschool budget can be spent on out of the home classes and field trips. Thanks to being on the review crew and being a pack rat (of books), we are already in pretty good shape. Below is the list of what I already have.

Dean 9th/10th Grade

English I (9th), mostly a writing course ~ Finish Cover Story, grammar workbooks,  Linguistic Development through Poetry (will be halfway done with this course by the end of this school year).

English II (10th) Literature English and American ~ Progeny Press Unit Study of Great Expectations, Literature through Movies, see Shakespeare plays offered in our area, two other great works to be determined...

Career and Technology (10th) ~ Succeeding in the World of Work textbook and field trips.

Community Service (10th) ~ Volunteering at the regional nature center, food bank, Humane Society, as well as doing special projects for the Red Cross and Meals on Wheels (150 hours).

Math I (9th) ~ Real world math (algebra and geometry) with Math Mammoth, Hands-on Math Projects with Real-Life Applications,Grades 6-12, other hands-on resources and occasional drill worksheets.

Earth Science (9th) ~ We are using lots of Internet and library resources in addition to lots of field trips. (We will be done with this course by next November.)

Biology (10th) ~ Still need to determine curriculum. This is where a chunk of money will be spent because we will dissect several specimens.

U.S. History I (9th) The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic Memoria Press American History through Spanish American War, lots of field trips (will be 1/3 complete by the end of this school year).

P.E. and Health (9th) ~ Swimming, physical therapy at home, dance classes, as well as a 6 to 10 week health course (to be determined).

Taught by Others ...

String Instruments (9th) ~ Ukulele, guitar and electric guitar (will be halfway done by the end of this school year).

Visual Art I (9th) ~ Art classes with Grandma and Miss Laura (may complete this course yet this year. If so, so he will go onto Visual Arts II for 10th grade).

Anne 8th/9th 

Anne will be doing two or three courses toward her 9th grade credits, even though she will be an 8th grader.

Biology (9th) ~ Same as brother's curriculum, to be determined.

English I (9th) ~ Same as brother's curriculum (will do lots of extra reading).

P.E. (8th) ~ Swimming and her technical dance classes.

Performing Arts and Music (8th) ~ Dance classes that are for performances, all rehearsals and performances, piano lessons.

Math (8th) ~ Math Mammoth and hands-on math projects.

History (8th) ~ Two research papers and presentation on historical topic of her choosing, lots of biographies and field trips.

Home Economics (8th) ~ Sewing, personal finance and household budgeting, cooking, gardening and other life skills.

Logic (8th) ~ Fallacy Detective, jigsaw puzzles 500+, Orbiting with Logic, Unlocking Analogies Middle School, Red Herring Mysteries Level 2.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring Break

This week was a combination of field trips and a working vacation for me. I really had loads to do. I wish I could say the "to do list" was complete, but it isn't nearly done. I did get lots accomplished, but I was just terribly behind in paperwork, "business" phone calls, filing medical papers and all the little pieces of life that get brushed aside when there are more pressing things to do. It takes a great deal of time and energy to run a special needs family. I have already decided to take Monday off to get a bit more done. Thank goodness for the flexibility of homeschooling.

We also had lots of fun this week. We went to two movies ~ Beauty and the Beast and The Zookeeper's Wife. They were both excellent, but The Zookeeper's wife is a hard movie to get through. I suggest consulting Common Sense Media before going to determine if your children are ready for it. I am glad my kids saw it, but there were lots of difficult parts to experience.

We also went on a history tour of Biltmore Industries and learned about this very small, but famous fabric company that was in operation from 1901 to the 1980s.
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We also investigated an antique car museum.
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The kids enjoyed having a snack at the Grove Park Inn. Dean selected a "dangerously sour candy" and then had a hard time keeping a straight face while trying to eat the pieces. lol

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Our really big adventure this week was to visit Gatlinburg. This was our first time since the wildfire at the end of last November that took 14 lives and destroyed more than 2,000 structures. 

We also went to the Ripley's Believe or Not, played miniature golf and went through the Ripley's Marvelous Mirror Maze. We very much enjoyed everything. Well, I did think the Mirror Maze was a bit! Looking at the pictures below amazes me. When did my kids get so big and grown up?! They are all taller than my husband now!

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I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review ~ Color My Conversation

Northern Speech Services

We were offered Color My Conversation from Northern Speech Services for review. We had just received a diagnosis for our son of pragmatic language delays and this was an answer to our prayers. My son (14) has struggled with understanding all of the nuances of language ever since he was a toddler. He labors with people using the exact meaning of vocabulary words. To him, big vs. huge are entirely different words and should never be interchanged. He also wrestles with understanding non-verbal cues as well as with reading the proper emotion associated with the tone in which a person speaks. For instance, he thinks someone is shouting when they are only speaking slightly louder than usual. All of these language issues are very distracting to my son, and he often struggles to get through a conversation successfully.

Northern Speech Services Color My Conversation

What Is Color My Conversation ~ 

This  program was created for speech therapists but is easily adapted for use at home with a parent. It is a multi-sensory program that encourages lots of hands-on learning. It contains 12 lessons and takes 14 to 16 weeks to complete. However, it could take less time if your child already has some skills and needs to start a bit further into the program. It is geared for ages 5 to 12, but it could be used for older if the student is especially delayed. The program comes with games, a conversation ball, pdf files and an excellent manual. Everything you need is in the box. You also have access to online training videos. There are three levels included which are described below.
  • The Beginner Level is intended for ages 5 and up. This level helps with greetings, goodbyes and small talk. 
  • The Intermediate Level is intended for 8 and up but could be used for younger after completing the beginner level. This level works on asking and answering questions, changing subjects and understanding non-verbal cues. 
  • The Advanced Level helps the child take all of the lessons out of the classroom and into the world. 
Each lesson takes 30 to 45 minutes. We started in the intermediate level, because my son was already comfortable with greetings and farewells. We found one of the most useful tools in this program to be the color-coded stepping stones. They can be written on time and time again with dry erase markers. The kids quickly learn that each color stone has a purpose. 
  • Yellow is greeting/farewell.
  • Green is for starting a conversation.
  • Blue is for different topics.
  • Red is for wrapping up a conversation.
What We thought ~ 

My son was not super receptive to this program. The colors, ball and childlike aspect put him off. He is a teenager and wants to be seen as being both mature and neurotypical. He is also struggling with being labeled with having any delays. So we had to use this program very slowly and get his sister involved. While I thought this program has potential for older students, it is likely more applicable to those with more intellectual delays than my son. I did, however, see lots of potential but with some tweaking. I liked that it could be used to deal with some more difficult conversation or to prepare (role play) conversations that one might encounter out in the real world. The training videos were great. As a mother of multiple special needs children, I often find that professionals believe that I can handle anything and forget that I do not have formal training. I appreciate the support that the videos provide. This program gets a thumbs-up from our family. I appreciate anything that will help my son feel more comfortable in the world. Although this was presented in a too child-like way for my teen, it would be an excellent fit for other families with delayed adolescents or younger children.

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

Color My Conversation {Northern Speech Services Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Week Before Spring Break

This week was filled with great learning. I love the weeks that are filled to the brim with great quality stuff. Dean takes art classes with another homeschool mom two times a week. They are working on mural designs and looking for a public space that they would be allowed to paint a mural. They came up with a few possibilities this week.
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Time for a bit of silliness while on their quest.

In science this week, we went on a field trip to a mining and gem store. The kids got a huge tub of dirt laced with semi precious gems to sift through. They had a great time and came up with some great finds. Later in the week we identified the gems. The kids have garnets, several types of calcite, quartz, rose quartz, agate, sodalite, and lots of jasper. We are looking into getting a rock tumbler, so we can polish our gems and make jewelry.

In history this week, we finished our unit study on The Tree in the Trail, which was about the Sante Fe Trail. We wrapped up the unit by making honeycomb candles. We are excited about moving on to learning about Native American Indians. 

We finished the week off with our eldest child's birthday. Tim wanted events more than gifts, so we headed out to lunch and then to Fun Depot (an amusement center). We went on a 4D dinosaur adventure ride, played laser tag, played miniature golf and drove go-karts. It was an all-around exciting day. It amazes me that he is 27 and that I have been a mother in charge of a special needs family for that many years~ WOW!

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Besides all the fun, we did lots of seat work and DVD watching. We also had one and a half days of trials and tribulations with the bureaucracy. But I am too tired to repeat all that. I'd rather just repeat the positive this time. We have lots of great plans for our "field trip spring break". It should be a ton of fun and a nice break from the grind of dance and school. 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review ~ Shepherd, Potter, Spy and the Star Namer

Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer {Peggy Consolver}

Our most recent family read aloud was Shepherd, Potter, Spy and the Star Namer from Peggy Consolver, author. We received this exciting book that really makes Biblical history come to life for review. Peggy Consolver has taken the story of the Gibeonites from Joshua 9 and 10 and fleshed out a wonderful tale of adventure.

This book is softcover and 375 pages long. I would say it is geared toward middle school and high school students. It is well written but requires strong reading comprehension skills. There is a wonderful section in the back of the book filled with discussion questions, and there is a 12 unit study guide for an additional purchase.

Before starting the book, I read up a bit on Peggy Consolver. She did an amazing amount of research while writing this book. She even went to an archaeological dig and visited Gibeon, which was a Canaanite city north of Jerusalem in Biblical times. While on the archaeological dig, she helped as an assistant amateur Her travels really come through in all of the details laid out through the book.
Peggy Consolver

This story follows the young life of Keshub, a shepherd boy who watches the arrival of the Hebrews in his land. His people are fearful that the Hebrews, who have just ended their 40 year period of wandering in the desert, are going to take their land. Through the story, Keshub begins to spy on the newcomers and then defend them to his own people. In many ways, this is a coming of age story for Keshub. He has to face dangers, make critical decisions and  find his way into becoming a man. The entire story is through his eyes and tells the story of Gibeonites. This fresh perspective is an interesting twist on the story of how the Gibeonites survived being destroyed and the formation of the Gibeon Treaty.

I must state that we were very impressed with the unit study guide that you can purchase. I love it when there are lessons to go along with the book. The website had some great video links, a downloadable map, lots of research links and some great projects. Your student can learn plaiting, braiding, and how to make a square lashing. My son really liked the video on how to make a sling and how to start a campfire. The study guide made the book so much more fun for my hands-on kids.

Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer Peggy Consolver
This book and study guide get a thumbs up from our family. It is a great addition to studying the Old Testament and getting a new perspective. I love that Peggy did so much research and really got her hands into the story by going on an archaeological dig. Her passion truly shines in this book.

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

Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer {Peggy Consolver Reviews}

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review ~ Memoria Press

Memoria Press

We love anything from Memoria Press. We were so excited to receive for review The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set and 200 Questions About  American History Set. What a generous gift to review. This product is suggested for 5th to 8th grade but could easily be used for high school credit with a little tweaking.

The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set

I was thrilled after a very short examination of the materials to realize that the combination of the two products I was sent would be all that my son needed for his 9th grade American History I course. The lessons are easily spread out over 32 weeks. This combination of books and drill cards will take my son from the beginning of American History to 1898. All I need to do is add in some amazing field trips, a research paper and he will have all he'll to be done. Memoria Press suggests that you can do the lessons a bit faster and buy a book from another vendor to make it a complete curriculum for American History from start to current times in one school year. However, my state requires two years of American History so we will be taking it at a bit slower pace. 

The Story of The Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic set comes with a reader, student workbook/guide and a teacher guide. There are 32 lessons in the student guide which cover several chapters in the reader. The chapters in the reader are very short (most of them only two or three pages). This thrilled my son, who feels like he already knows a great deal about history and isn't particularly excited about "reviewing" material. However, he wasn't able to pass the tests without reading the text, so he needs to get the facts a bit more solid. I love that the student and teacher guides have important documents to American history included. Being a follower of Charlotte Mason, it is so important to me that my kids get to read original text whenever possible. Each lesson covers vocabulary, comprehension questions, and enrichment. The enrichment is a wonderful way to add in a little hands-on activity, such as maintaining a timeline, reviewing mapping skills or writing an essay. 
200 Questions About American History Set
Grades 5-8

The second product is the 200 Questions About American History set. This comes with a teacher guide, student book and lots of flash cards. It is a wonderful way to make all of the important facts more concrete. The student can drill using the cards and look through the reading to answer questions about important quotes, dates, and events. My son really liked the flash cards and was quickly testing his father, who considers himself a history buff. They spent lots of time testing each other with the cards. 
My son will be completing this combined program for his 9th grade American History course. We both liked the layout and short but interesting lessons. The enrichment section was an added bonus to both of us. However, he thinks recipes should be included. Just like a teenage boy, he is always thinking with his stomach. This gets a thumbs up from all of us!

To see what others had to say about this great product click on the banner below.
First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}

Blessings, Dawn