Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer Week 5 ~ A Quiet One...

We had a peaceful week. There were no camps, no doctor appointments, no emergencies! It was just a nice, calm week.

Sunday ~ We celebrated my 45th birthday! Wow, 45 years old! It seems like I was graduating from college and getting married just the other day. I am so blessed to be healthy and surrounded by a loving family.

Monday ~ Dean started his Monday volunteer job at the nature center. He was extremely anxious, but it all went well. Hopefully, he will be less nervous next week. Anne did two hours of ballet classes.

Tuesday ~ We hung around the house. Anne and I finished our Harry Potter movie marathon that we started a week or so ago. The boys got out the band saw and created small gadgets/toy weapons.

Wednesday ~ Anne had several more hours of ballet and Dean had therapy (guess we did have one appointment). Dean finished his latest drawing. I really love this one! I am amazed with the detail in the hair.

Thursday ~ We spent a lazy morning at home and then set out to explore downtown a bit. We ended up in our favorite store, which has a huge candy department. The candy is sold in individual pieces and the kids picked out a few things to try. They then played several rounds of checkers.

Friday ~ We have plans for some major grocery shopping and I need to load a ton on eBay. I almost have our plans squared away for the next school year. 

All the rest ~ The kids start one subject each next week for summer school. I believe that Dean will be doing his career and technology class, which fits nicely with his volunteer job at the nature center, and Anne will be doing a logic course. Looking at our dance schedule, next year is overwhelming. We are trying to get some of our courses started or even completed before the school year gets underway in August.

Books 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
Week 3 ~ Water Cooler Diaries: Women Across America Share Their Day at Work
Week 4 ~ Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day
Week 5 ~ The Rainbow Resource Catalogue Does a catalog even count? I think it should. It is 800 pages long and filled with so many homeschool products. Yes, I really do read huge sections of it. 

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lightning Lit and Comp Review

Hewitt Homeschooling
We are very much a literature-based homeschool. I love and follow many principles of the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. I have been patiently waiting to enjoy British Literature with my children for years! You can imagine my delight when I was picked to review British Mid-Late 19th Century program from Hewitt Homeschooling.
This set comes with an excellent teacher's guide and a student guide. The teacher's guide is spiral bound and you can put it in your own three ring binder. It is 81 pages long and so much more than an answer key. It also has a wonderful section with checklists for grading papers and lots of project ideas to help learning come to life. The projects help to incorporate art, music and history.  I love it when I can create a bit of a unit study, but there are fewer and fewer opportunities as my kids get older. 
 Lightning Literature and Composition Pack
British: Mid to Late 19th Century
Hewitt Homeschooling has several different time periods, regions or authors in their Lightning Literature and Composition series. I received their British Mid-Late 19th Century program. This program sets out to really teach students how to read great literature and then in turn how to use great literature to improve their own writing skills. 
I won't kid you. This is a meaty program that is very much intended for high school. That said, I am very impressed. In the very beginning of the student book which is written to the student, it talks about activities to enhance your study. I loved the idea of a family reading or writing night once a week. We already read together as a family nightly, but the idea of sharing our own writings with the family is fantastic. We found a good time to do this was right after dinner. I also loved the idea of creating a vocabulary journal and taking time to summarize what you are reading each day with your family to increase memory and composition. This is so much like the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. I also found to be invaluable all of the tips and advice on how to read poetry. 
We started with the poem, The Idylls of the King The Coming of Arthur, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. This is a weighty piece of literature. However, with all of the wonderful advice and our handy vocabulary journals, we jumped in and digested the poem stanza by stanza. There are several Lord Tennyson poems. At the completion of the lesson, there are helpful comprehension questions and writing exercises to guide the student through writing their own poetry. My students also learned how to find the feet and meter of the poems. The writing assignments definitely helped my teens increase their writing skills, and the checklists helped me with editing and grading their work.
We are taking this program slower than we had intended. My teens are in 8th and 9th grade and still need lots of support with their writing efforts. However, the guide suggests how to do the program in one year instead of a semester; and we are following that suggestion, with a few extra pieces of literature sprinkled in. 
This gets a thumbs-up from our family. We are so pleased with it that we will be working through the entire book. We even might go on to one of the other books in the series. We reviewers on the review crew reviewed different levels, so click on the banner below to see a wide variety. 
Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

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