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"

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

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!!
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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