Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Weekly Lesson Plans

I always love seeing how other homeschool moms organize and plan out their lessons, so, I thought I'd share with you what has worked for our family for the past few years.  Maybe something here will spark an idea for you that will help you just as reading about others helped me develop the best plan for our family.

First of all, I'm not going to lie and tell you that this way is neccesarily quick.  I do have to put some time into it each week.  But compared to the years I tried to get by without having a plan down for the week, the time invested in laying out our weekly plans is SO worth it!

When sitting down to plan out this school year the very first thing I did was take each subject and see where I wanted us to be by the end of the year then backtracked to see what we needed to cover each month in order to reach that goal.  Each month was then broken down into what needed to be covered each week.

The result is what I have sitting before me each school day:

I made this form myself using Mircrosoft Word, tweaking it here and there until I felt it was what would work best for me and our schooling.  Each subject we cover through the week is listed down the left side with the days of the week going across the top.  I have a section on the right side to list what books the kids are currently reading along with a place to write down about our week, a sort of easy-access journal of our school days.

Once I have this filled out for the week I transfer the kid's assignments to their own weekly checklists that they keep in their box with all their curriculum books.

I fill in as much as I can before the beginning of the week, but there are some things I have to fill in as the week goes on depending on what they do each day.  For example, how they do on their daily typing determines what they will do the next day.  Also, if more practice or help is needed in math, that also determines what the next day's assignment will be.  Again, like my planner, subjects are listed down the left side with the days of the week going across the top.  Each box has a place for them to check off each assignment as they complete it.  I also put their weekly scripture verse they are to memorize at the bottom so they have a visual reminder several times throughout the day and week.  (This has worked wonders in the success of them memorizing them!)

Having their own personal checklist has brought so much peace to our days and took so much frustration off of me.  No longer do I have to continuously hear, "What else do I need to do mom?" or "What's next mom?".  Along with having all of their books in their own boxes so they can find what they need at any time, these weekly assignment sheets have allowed my children to take some control of their own education, which is the ultimate goal as they grow into responsible young men and women.

So, there ya' go.  That's how our homeschool weeks are planned.  Hope this may help inspire someone to come up with a planner that fits their family.  As my very wise hubby always says, "Proper prior planning prevents poor performance." 

(Pssst... there are tons of planning forms here!  This is where I get most of the ones I use.)

One Busy Momma

Has it REALLY been nearly four months since I promised to give you all my best Disney tips!  Wow!  Time sure does fly when you're a busy momma. 

I truly am so sorry.  I do still intend to type up everything I can to help you have a wonderful Disney vacation.  When we got back from Florida I had two weeks as the VBS Director at our church to finalize everything for this summer's VBS fun.  Then it was on to getting our home back in order (because as anyone who has ever directed a VBS knows, it's either VBS or a clean house, but it's impossible to have both at the same time!), buying and setting up a new swimming pool, planning for a yard sale, and all the million other things summertime brings.  Thus, the Disney blog posts got put on the back burner.

However!  With one of our dear friends planning a trip for her family in November and excitedly telling me all about it, I am really, REALLY wanting to start planning our next trip as well!  So all the pictures and memories are flooding back into my mind lately and I desperately want to document everything, so I promise, it's coming.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Walt Disney World!

Our family recently returned from a long-overdue vacation.  I'm talking EIGHT LONG YEARS overdue!  And our vacation destination was the same place we went eight years ago... Walt Disney World!  It's our absolute favorite place on earth to go.  At least, it is right now, since we've not been anywhere else as a family!  LOL!  (We plan on taking them to Washington D.C. and New York over the next few years as those are my other favorite places to visit!)

If you have never been to Disney World I encourage you with all my heart to try to go, whether you have small children, older children, or no children at home at all.  It's such a magical place and everyone becomes a kid again when visiting the Magic Kingdom!  Or at least, they should.  But sadly, while there I saw far too many tired, whiney kids getting on the nerves of their tired, grouchy parents, and that is no fun for anyone.  Why get all the way to Disney World only to ruin everyone's vacation by not being prepared BEFORE you arrive?!

Over the next few weeks I'll be blogging all about our trip and sharing all the best tips I learned to help make anyone's trip to Disney World the best it possibly can be.  Please trust me when I say Disney World is NOT a trip you can just take with no prior planning.  For some, a trip to Walt Disney World is a once in a lifetime vacation.  For others, it's simply too magical of a place to only visit once.  Regardless, if you will take the time to plan and organize your Disney vacation you will come home with a lifetime of wonderful memories, and hopefully lots and lots of pictures to help preserve those memories!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amanda, Light of My Life

When I was a little girl my stepdad was in a couple different country music bands.  That's all I knew growing up, hearing him singing and playing with his band buddies.  One song I remember fondly was 'Amanda' by Waylon Jennings.  I always loved that song becuase of the way the end of the word 'Amanda' ( followed by 'light of my life') was sung higher and higher and higher.  I loved singing those notes along with the drummer! 

When I was nine my mom and I moved from Illinois to Kentucky with my stepdad.  Being so young and moving from an hour south of Chicago to a small town in Kentucky was not easy for me.  I was very sad about leaving my friends.  I felt lost.  This was a whole different way of life for me.  I was used to neighbors being just a few feet away.  Now they were quite a walk away, if not a good DRIVE away.  A new school, a new home, a whole new way of life.  With no siblings to commiserate with I was really lost.

But God saw my little broken heart and sent me an angel, my new Aunt Mandy.  We moved in with Mandy, my stepdad's sister, while our house was being built.  Aunt Mandy took me right in and treated me like one of her own.  She loved on me and cooked for me and talked with me, she even tried to snatch my birthday present while I was opening it once (picture above)!  She always had a hug ready and waiting for everyone, whether she hadn't seen them in a while or if she had just seen them the day before.  It didn't matter to Mandy.  She loved everyone.

During this time of living with her I began transforming from a little girl into a young woman, if you know what I mean.  I was quite young for this and I was freaked out.  But I remember Aunt Mandy coming into my room, sitting down beside me on my bed, and talking to me about 'things'.  Her words comforted me and I was so thankful for her.

Once, I woke her up while I was sleepwalking.  She heard me and came to see what I was doing.  She caught me at the front door putting on my coat and asked me where I was going.  "I'm going home", I told her.  "Ok, here, let me help you".  She took my coat off and led me back to bed and tucked me in.  Thank God, literally, for her!  Who knows where I may have ended up!

Once our new home was built I still saw Mandy every day since we lived right across the road from her.  Even after I was married and had children of my own one of my favorite things to do was to go to Mandy's and just sit outside with her, enjoying the breeze and talking about whatever was going on at the time.  Just look at all that family sitting out under Mandy's carport and in the yard enjoying family time and some good music!

We weren't the only ones Mandy opened her home up to.  After we moved out and into our own home Mandy took in an older gentleman named Norwood.  I'm not even sure who exactly he was but I believe he was some relation to her late husband.  I'm sure this wasn't always an easy task.  The one thing I remember about Norwood is that he DRANK linament!  Oh, and smelled like it as well.  LOL!  But Mandy opened her heart and home and took care of him until his death.  What an amazing woman.

And oh what a cook she was!  I loved Mandy's potato salad.  To this day I can't stand to eat any other potato salad, except Mandy's.  She knew this and any time we had a family reunion she was sure to make some.  I think it made her feel good to know that hers was the only one I would eat.  Oh, and her potato cakes!  Oh my goodness.  Those were heavenly, and she used to make them often for me.  I'm going to have to make sure to get those recipes now I guess.  I didn't want them before because those foods were special any time I had them because that meant that Aunt Mandy had made them for me.  I'm crying, again, knowing I'll never again taste the love that went into everything Mandy made.

Due to other's situations and allowing life to get in the way I hadn't seen or talked to Mandy in a couple years, although we lived only 15 minutes apart.  It broke my heart and I thought of her often, missing her hugs and our talks and of course, her yummy food.  The saddest part for me, the thing that has my heart hurting more than anything, is that for the past few months I have had Mandy on my mind and wanted to call her just to hear her voice again.  I missed her.  I missed her laugh, her hugs.  She truly, genuinely cared about others and I missed her greatly.  But I would call, soon.  Aunt Mandy would always be there.  She was the rock of the family.  She was hardly sick.  She was the youngest of her siblings.  I never dreamed I would never get the chance to talk to her again.

Aunt Mandy went to be with the Lord yesterday after successfully coming through a heart cath where three stints were placed to open up blockages.  I was so very thankful to hear she would be coming home today.  No more putting off seeing or talking to her.  I was going to visit her this week!  I couldn't wait!  Sadly, God had other plans and He is now the One that gets to receive those hugs of hers, the One that gets to sit and talk with her and laugh with her.  What a glorious reunion they are having right now, with all her siblings that have gone on before her, her parents, and her beloved husband she has been without for so very, very long.  I'm so happy for her, but so very sad for those of us who are left behind to miss her every single day for the rest of our lives. 

Yet, I find comfort in knowing that one day I will see her again.  I can't wait to get to Heaven and feel those arms around me one more time, to hear her precious laugh, and just to sit and enjoy the breeze and talk about everything that's been going on.

I love you Aunt Mandy and I truly thank God for sending you into my life when I needed you the most.  Thank you for always loving me, as well as my own little family, no matter what.  Thank you for the hugs, the talks, the smiles, the home when we didn't have one, the potato salad, the potato cakes, the apple crisp recipe you gave me a few years ago, all the sweet corn, for letting my kids come pick apples out of your trees.  Thank you for the memories, and thank you for giving your life to the Lord so those of us left here mourning your passing can have the hope and the comfort of knowing that we can indeed see you again if we simply make the same decision you did to give our hearts over to the Lord and serve Him.

Thank you Aunt Mandy.  I miss you greatly, and I will see you soon.  I promise!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing

As a member of the TOS Crew my children and I were given the opportunity to review the Student Writing Intensive, Level C from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

I had heard about IEW many times over our nine years of homeschooling, but I had assumed it was simply too intensive for our style of learning as well as being too expensive.  Granted, I never took the time to thoroughly research it.  I simply passed it off as 'not for us'.  Boy was I wrong!  Having a freshman in high school with no thorough, formal writing instruction up to this point, the opportunity to review this curriculum was most definitely a blessing.

First of all, the creator of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, Andrew Pudewa, is a homeschooling father of seven, a grandfather of three, and a teacher.  His primary profession is teaching music.  However, he was put into the position of being a history and an english teacher without any previous experience at either.  He was encouraged by another teacher to attend a teacher-training course on 'structure and style in composition' by a gentleman named Dr. James Webster.  Mr Pudewa was so impressed and learned so much and saw such amazing results in his students that he returned to the training course for the next two years!  Mr. Pudewa continued teaching what he learned to children which led to the opportunity to do some seminars and classes.  The interest from parents and other teachers was so great that those seminars and classes eventually evolved into writing the curriculum and doing the videos that became the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

IEW has products for every age level, beginning with the Primary Arts of Language for K-2 and continuing on with their Student Writing Intensives, Level A for grades 3-5, Level B for grades 6-8, and Level C (which is what we reviewed) for grades 9-12.  Each of these 'Intensives' cost $99.00 and come with a binder with dividers, a packet with teacher's notes, student handouts, and checklists, as well as the writing sessions recorded live on four DVDs.  Extra binders can also be purchased for $18.00 if you're working with more than one student on the same level.  However, when that becomes the case for me I plan on simply making multiple copies of the handouts that come with the Intensive and putting them in a binder myself.  One more thing that's important to know is that once your student has completed all the lessons in their Intensive it is possible to continue on through the rest of the writing units with an additional 32 lessons if you so choose, however, this is optional.  By using the Continuation Course you can use this writing curriculum for 1-2 years of writing instruction per Intensive.

Another IEW product I plan on using next year is Fix It! Grmmar and Editing Made Easy With the Classics.  While learning how to write is of upmost importance I also don't want to let my daughter's grammar fall by the way-side while she's learning to write and this looks like just the right fit for us.  Not too much, not too little.  Hopefully it will help her learn to critique her own writing even better!

Oh, and that teacher-training I mentioned above that Mr. Pudewa learned so much from?  Well he has kindly put together our own teacher-training seminar!  Now, I only have experience with the Structure and Style Overview DVD so I can't speak on the other teaching DVD's but I was very impressed with what I watched on the S&SO DVD.  Mr. Pudewa's voice is very enjoyable to listen to and he's very easy to understand as well as being funny.  I felt like I was right there in the room with him.  Here's what the website has to say about this DVD:

"In this 2 hour and 20 minute DVD and accompanying handouts, Andrew Pudewa introduces you to the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style method of teaching writing. Briefly covering the nine units of structure and introducing several stylistic techniques, Andrew gives the audience insight into why this method is so effective in teaching even the most reluctant writer."

Of course, if you'd simply like to purchase the whole kit and kaboodle for a certain level you can do so in one easy click here.

We were also sent a portable wall which is "a single-pocket folder with an extra page, creating a tri-fold wall packed with all the Unit Models, several word lists including prepositions, substitutes for "said," and more."  I really appreciate whoever came up with this idea as we are one family that has absolutely no room to hang posters, at least not anywhere where my daughter could actually see it easily in order to help her.  With the portable wall she can simply keep it in her binder and pull it out any time she needs to.  Two big mom thumbs up for this one! 

As I've said before, writing is one of the most dificult things to evaluate.  You want to teach and encourage the student in their writing yet receiving a paper back full of red marks is not going to help your child want to write very much.  But when they have complete, thorough, easy-to-understand instructions it is so much easier, on the student as well as the mom/teacher!

Overall I am VERY pleased with the products we reviewed and plan on continuing to use them throughout our homeschooling years.  To watch your child go from not understanding that there is a right and a wrong way to write to someone who is developing into a wonderful writer of beautiful papers is such a thrill!  And it's all thanks to IEW and Mr. Pudewa's teaching that our daughter now enjoys writing and actually looks forward to it each day!  All this mom can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.  We are now life-long IEW users!

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Latin's Not So Tough

As a reviewer for The Old Shoolhouse I was given the opportunity to review Latin's Not So Tough! by Greek 'N' Stuff.  Now, you may be asking yourself, "Latin?  From GREEK 'N' Stuff?"  Well, yes.  LOL.  I couldn't find it anywhere on their website but I'm guessing that their curriculum Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! was written first, before their other 'stuff', hence the name Greek 'N' Stuff.

Ok ok, on to the important stuff.

Latin's Not So Tough!, as a whole, is intended for use with young children.  With six levels currently available it would have been nice to be able to start with Level One (which can be completed in less than one year) with my children when they were much younger than what they are now.  I would be interested to see how going through all six levels would help them in their early study of Latin.

However, while Level One concentrates on the alphabet, diphthongs, and special consonant sounds, older elementary students (and beyond) can start with Level Three, which is the level we received to review. (You can go here and scroll down just a little to find Placement Quizzes to see which level your student needs to start with.  Personally, I found I would need to start somewhere LOWER than Level One!  LOL!)

Level Three covers the following:

*Alphabet and vocabulary review
*Latin grammar:
   ~First declension nouns
   ~Second declension (-us and -ius) nouns
   ~Three special case uses
   ~First conjugation verbs, present active indicative

*Read and write simple Latin sentences

*Matching, fill in the blank, fun activities, puzzles

Also, each level includes flashcard pages at the back of the workbook.  These need to be cut out and I highly recommend using poster board-type paper and/or laminating them so they will last longer.

Level Three is for students who have completed Level Two, or older students.  Regardless of which level you start with, each one has the following available (along with a few other things you can find here):

~Student Workbook (21.95)
~"Answers Only" Answer Key (4.00)
~"Full Text Answer Key" (21.95)
~Quizzes/Exams (5.50)
~Pronounciation CD (for Levels 1-3) (10.00)

Latin's Not So Tough! teaches classical pronunciation and is written to be very student-friendly.  The workbooks are designed in such a way that the student simply progresses through each level on a page-by-page basis, rather than on a weekly lesson structure.  The first three levels are laid out as such:
   ~Level One: 104 student pages; 28 lessons
   ~Level Two: 144 student pages; 30 lessons
   ~Level Three and above: 170 student pages; 36 lessons

The Student Workbook is laid out in such a way that they can pretty much pick it up and work through it at their own pace with little teacher involvement.  Depending on what day it is around here, that can be a very good thing but sometimes it also makes me a little sad.  However, independent learning has always been one of my goals for my children in homeschooling them so it actually works out very well.  Seeing as how I have NO knowledge of Latin, it's probably better this way anyway.  LOL! 

Actually, NONE of us have any prior Latin knowledge and this made it near impossible for us to just pick up and start learning with Latin's Not So Tough.  Right from the very first page it instructed the student to do things that we had no clue about!  They couldn't do it and I couldn't help them.  There is no instruction, just an expectation that you know what you're doing for both the student and the teacher. 

Maybe I just don't understand how to use it the right way, but my frustration eventually won out and I hate to say that we did not use this curriculum.  Maybe starting at a lower level would have helped us?  I just don't know.

However, if this is something you are interested in, let's move on to pricing.  Considering the prices are different depending on what Level you are purchasing I will simply refer you to this page to see all of Level Three's prices.

Along with Latin and Greek curriculums, a few Bible Studies are also offered by this same company.

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Sample pages.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review: Zeezok Guide to the Movies

Finally, someone has come up with our family's kind of curriculum!  Watch a movie, learn from it.  How much better could it get?

Zeezok Publishing has created these wonderful little things called "Z-Guides to the Movies" to go along with select movies that are full of wonderful learning opportunities.  When presented with the opportunity to review the guide that corresponds to the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington I jumped at the chance!  Mr. Smith... is one of our 14-year-old daughter's favorite movies so I knew this review would be a perfect fit for us.

We received the e-book, however you may also purchase the guide on CD if you wish.  This CD contains a printable pdf file of the complete study guide.  Regardless of which option you choose, each cost $12.99.  If you don't already own the movie for which you are studying you may also purchase them on DVD from Zeezok, rent them, purchase them from the store, borrow them from the library, or, my very favorite, get them through Netflix.

The study guide starts out with a Topic Overview.  In this particular guide a brief explanation of Congress, Senators, and filibusters as they pertain to the movie.  Next comes a movie synopsis giving a brief description of the movie for those who may not have already seen the movie.

Following this are ten different activities to help study different aspects of the movie more in depth.  For this particular title we started with 25 movie review questions.  Even though we had already seen the movie, a few times in fact, we still chose to watch it again so it would be fresh in our minds.  But before watching the movie for this study my daughter and I read over the review questions first so we would be aware of what to listen and watch for.  I had her answer the questions as she recognized them while watching the movie.  Gotta love that Pause button!

Then we moved on to learning all about the filibuster.  Having never had the opportunity to take a US Governement class in school and having been busy raising kiddo's the past 15 years, this study was as much for me as it was my daughter!  American history is FASCINATING to me and I thoroughly enjoyed working on this and look forward to more of these studies.

Some of the other activities we worked on were learning how a bill becomes a law, comparing our views on our US Senators (are they representatives, trustees, or both?), becoming a reporter as well as an interveiwer covering this story, trying to get inside the mind of the director of the movie, as well as several other fun and thought-provoking activities.

Both my daughter and I learned so much through the guidance of this study and we look forward to using more z-guides to dig further into other movies.  What an awesome and fun way to study history!  Even my younger kids joined in watching the movie (again) as well as some of the activities.  That's what I love so much about homeschooling.  Even though this study is labeled as being for high school students, younger children can learn so much just by joining in on the fun!

There are 28 different Z-Guides to the Movies, all of which look to be just as fun and interesting as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and each costing just $12.99.  Each title focuses on a specific time in history and in my honest opinion is just simply a fun way to help understand what life was like during a specific historical period of time.  History shouldn't be dry and boring, but exciting and interesting and if possible, fun!  With these Z-guides from Zeezok Publishing I really do think we're going to enjoy our history time a whole lot more.

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Artistic Pursuits

Having an avid artist in the family who loves to draw and would do so all day, every day if he was allowed, I was thrilled to receive Artistic Pursuits to review as a member of the TOS Crew

Artistic Pursuits is an award-winning art curriculum for homeschoolers, by homeschoolers.  There are a total of ten books for students ranging in age from as young as 3-5 all the way up to a senior in high school!  If you choose, you may also purchase art supply packs that go along with each book.  These packs include all the art materials needed for each book and range in price from $45 to $92.  If you're interested in saving a little money or if you'd like to buy individual art supplies rather than the whole supply pack, Artistic Pursuits has also linked to on-line discount art supply stores you may also purchase your supplies from (scroll down to the bottom of the page to find these).

There are several things I really like about this art curriculum, one of the biggest being that the books are written conversation-style directly to the student so my son can simply pick up the book and do it on his own.  This makes is easy on mom while also helping my son feel independent in his art.

Another thing I really appreciate about Artistic Pursuits is how the student is encouraged to look at the world around them, taking it all in and seeing it in a different way than they've ever looked at it before and then drawing from that.  They are not kept inside the box, being shown exactly what to draw and how to draw it within a tiny little box.  They are encouraged to draw things as THEY see them, at their own age-appropriate level, and then praised for doing so.

Within each book is a full school year's worth of lessons, done at two lessons per week.  There are four unique projects in each unit that include creative exercises, art history and appreciation, techniques, and exploration of various subject matter. 

The book we reviewed is Book One of the Grade 4-6 level as seen here:

This book is broken down into 16 units, each unit containing four lessons.  Lesson 1 of each new unit is titled, Explore Your World!  A Creative Exercise Using Real-World Experience.  This is exactly as it sounds, a brief reading of what real artists out in the real world do in different situations along with a 'Try It' activity for the student to do.  The objective for each unit is given at the bottom of this page making it easy for the teacher to see.

"Unit 2, Lesson 1: VOCABULARY AND CREATIVE EXERCISE PAGE Each unit explores one or two elements of art or a compositional arrangement. ILLUSTRATED VOCABULARY: A definition is given in both words and pictures at the top of the page. EXPLORE YOUR WORLD! Students get their hands on art materials the first day in a project designed to explore the subject of art and creativity. OBJECTIVES: The objectives of the Explore your World! section are listed and color coded to clarify the purpose of the creative assignment and for easy grading using a grading system on page 87."

Lesson 2 of each unit shows a master work and helps them apply what they are learning into their own creation.  One of my favorite parts of Artistic Pursuits that I am so glad the creaters included comes in lesson 2 as well, learning about famous (and sometimes not-so-famous) artists and the times they lived in.

"Unit 2, Lesson 2: ART APPRECIATION PAGE Students see how the topic of the unit is used in a work by a master artist. When they see a concept in artists' works, they are more able to use it in their own work. Illustrations accompany the work, helping students see what is being discussed in the text. Arrows point to the places in the artwork that are discussed in the text so students can't miss seeing it."

"ART HISTORY PAGE: Students gain a larger context to view art in as they learn about the artists and the times in which the art was made. ARTIST BIOGRAPHY: A biography of the master artist familiarizes students with major artists and their works. Students learn about painters of the American Revolution, the first painters of the Native Americans, Wilderness Explorers, Cowboy Painters, Quakers, miniatures, American Impressionists, Realists, and Regionalists. THE TIMES: Students learn about American history. They will see what Americans were doing, thinking, and discovering during the artist's lifetime. MAKE AN OBSERVATION DRAWING: Students gain skill in working from observation, memory, or imagination."

 The third lesson of each unit focuses on learning how to use the different medias, materials and tools of art and having them put that knowledge to use in their own art.

"Unit 2, Lesson 3: TECHNIQUES PAGE HOW TO: Students learn technical information. How to use a medium such as pencil or pen and a variety of ways for using each medium are introduced. Techniques for drawing and exploring certain subject matter are shown. This page introduces some basic ideas about seeing to help the student begin to observe more closely. SOMETHING TO TRY: Students practice with the techniques shown, completing a project."

Finally, in Lesson 4 the student is given a project to do that incorporates the new things they have learned.  They use a variety of references such as still life objects, landscapes, portraiture, photographs, and more.

"Unit 2, Lesson 4: FINAL PROJECT PAGE Instructions are given for a final project in which students assimilate the information from the unit and do a work reflecting their interests or particular interpretations. YOU WILL NEED: A materials list is given in the right column. REFER TO THE FOLLOWING WHEN DRAWING: Suggestions for what to use as a reference is given in the right column. Once students go through the book they will have used all the references available: photographs, direct observation, their imagination, etc. STUDENT GALLERY: Students see how others their own age interpreted and successfully used the element of art. A range of skill levels is shown to encourage different approaches to art. LOOK BACK: Students evaluate the success of the finished work by answering the questions. Parents can use the color-coded stated objective for easy grading."

Each of the ten Artistic Pursuits books sell for $42.95.  In my honest opinion they are worth the price.  However, it can get a bit pricey when you have several children that you would like to purchase books for.  I would like to see perhaps a discount when buying multiple books.  But that aside, I do really like this curriculum and look forward to continuing to use it in our homeschooling adventure.

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Great Expectations

So, today is Valentine's Day.  How do I know?  Because the calendar says so.  And since the calendar says so then that means we need to do something, right?  I mean, just take one peek at any store you walk into today.  Red hearts, beautiful roses, balloons, teddy bears, and candy are everwhere, SCREAMING "buy me to prove your love to someone!"

Listen, I personally don't have a problem with Valentine's Day but I know many people do.  But the reason I don't have a problem with it is not for the reason you might think.  It's not because I HAVE a Valentine, my wonderful husband of nearly 16 years.  Nope.  I don't have a problem with Valentine's Day because a long time ago I learned to let go of my expectations of other human beings.  In fact, I believe I blogged about this very same topic almost five years ago...

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Sad Kind of Happy

So my babysitting came to an end a week sooner than I expected since Chloe's mommy found a replacement sitter who was ready to go ahead and start.  We are so sad not having little Chloe here with us, giving us slobbery kisses and making us laugh.  But she's doing good at her new sitters and my focus is turned back to my home and family and homeschooling and these things make me happy.

My husband's grandmother passed away last week.  She lived a rich, full life of 94 years.  The past eight years however were spent in bondage to a body that simply wouldn't do what her mind told it to do.  In addition to 7 children, 19 grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren she also left behind a legacy of taking her children and grandchildren to church and asking everyone she came in contact with, even in the nursing home, if they went to church.  While we were sad to see her go, we know where Granny is and for that we are happy.

We had a car accident over two years ago and our case was just settled a couple weeks ago.  Sadly, our family business had a large bill that we had to take care of and that money is now gone.  However, I'm so thankful for God's perfect timing and that we WERE able to take care of the bill.  AND, learning that had we continued paying the minimum monthly payment on this bill it would have taken us 31 YEARS to pay it off and would have cost us an additional $15,000 makes me VERY happy it is now paid in full!

Life is not always easy, but how we CHOOSE to view each situation that comes our way goes a long way in determining who we are.  Are we going to choose to be overcomers who have joy even in the midst of hard times or are we going to let life get us down and depressed and steal our joy. 

I CHOOSE to see that Chloe is happy and well taken care of and that my children and their education is now getting my full attention instead of being sad and second-guessing letting her go and giving up the extra monthly income.  I CHOOSE to see that Granny is now running with her new glorified body down streets of gold with her Saviour as well as her husband she had to say good-bye to several years ago instead of being sad over not still having her here with us.  I CHOOSE to thank God for providing the way before YEARS of financial bondage overtook us instead of pouting over not being able to spend the money on other things.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


When we started homeschooling nine years ago I was simply a mommy and a wife.  Granted, I was a mommy to a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old, a 1-year-old, and a 2-month-old and was very busy, but it was a different kind of busy than what I am today.  My busyness came from taking care of my babies and our home and that was enough. 

Today I am still a wife and still a mommy, the only difference being that I am a mommy to a 14-year old, an 11-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 9-year-old.  But in addition to my duties as a wife and mother, and of course a homeschooler, over the years I have also become the leader of a girl's group at church, a Sunday School teacher, the VBS director at our church, a babysitter, a homeschool product reviewer, and the 'upkeeper' of my hubby's at-home business while he works his full-time job.

But lately I have felt an unsettleing inside.  It didn't take me long to realize that it was the Lord nudging me to get my priorities back in order, to get back to what HE wants me to do.  First, I am a wife.  Secondly, a mother.  Those two things have to be a priority and to be honest, they have both taken a back seat to everything else.  I look around and see that my house is not a home.  It's not a haven for my husband to come home to after a long day at work.  I am not setting a good example to my children, especially my two daughters, in how to keep an orderly and comfortable home nor how to be a helpmeet.

God has also called me to homeschool our children, this I know for sure.  Our days used to center around learning, reading, and discovering together!  But as I've added more and more hats over the years I'm sad to say that we have evolved into a workbook, little-hands-on, independent-work type of homeschool.  This is the very opposite of what we loved about homeschooling in the first place.  While there's nothing wrong with homeschooling with workbooks and certainly, developing our children into independent learners is always the goal of homeschool families, for our family the unit study, hands-on approach much more fit our lifestyle and it's something I miss very much.  My children are growing up right before my eyes and I'm tired of letting other things get in the way of enjoying every single second of watching them do so.

I am simply doing too many things, and only doing a so-so job at each of them.  And because of this the very things I love the most have suffered.  Taking on too much has also taken it's toll on my health as well, and that is not good for anyone.  I have put my own health on the back burner and as a result I have put on a considerable amount of weight and my blood pressure is at an unhealthy level.  There once was a day when I rose early and exercised (and spent time with the Lord!) before anyone else in my family woke up.  That hasn't happened in a very long time and I miss it.  I am so thankful the Lord loves me and my family enough to gently show me that I need to realign my priorities to His.

As of a few months ago I am no longer over the girl's group at church.  In His perfect timing God made a way for this by replacing the group with another opportunity for our girls to be together and learn about the Lord. 

After next week I will no longer be babysitting.  This was a very difficult and heart-wrenching decision for me.  The little ones I watch have been with us for a year and have become like my own.  We all love them very, very much and will miss them greatly.  However, after much prayer I know that this is something I must do.  Doing the right thing is not always the easy thing.  Often times it requires sacrifice.

I am still praying and believe there will be even more changes to come in the near future.  When one makes decisions such as these it doesn't always sit well with others and that is sometimes a very hard thing.  Saying 'no' is not very popular these days.  However, as long as I know I am doing exactly what God wants me to do then I can go forward in confidence and peace, knowing that He will work out all the details and more importantly, I know He will be pleased with my obedience.  After all, obedience IS better than sacrifice and I'd rather obey Him than make others happy and sacrifice His blessings any day!

How about you?  Are you doing too much and thus sacrificing these most important years in your children's lives?  Years you can never get back?  What things can you put aside or say 'no' to (or maybe just 'not right now') in order to put God and your family back in first priority where they belong?  Are you willing to sacrifice the good for the better?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: The Life of Christ from the Gospel of John

Positive Action for Christ is a publishing house that has been offering Bible curriculum for churches and Christian schools since 1969.  Our family had the opportunity to review The Life of Christ from the Gospel of John, one of their many high school studies.

The Life of Christ study can be used independently by the student, taught by the parent, or a combination of both, which is how we have chose to use it.  It can also be used in a co-op or group setting or as a family devotional.  The student book is divided into seven units, each unit containing between three and seven chapter lessons for a total of 35 lessons, one for each week of a typical school year.

Each chapter/lesson begins with a short reading to help the student connect their world today with the lesson and the truths found in the Bible.  This leads into the Student Work, the questions in their textbook.  These questions are designed to help the student imagine themselves as part of the story of Christ.  They will "help you to put yourself in the place of the disciples, the Pharisees, or the multitudes as you investigate for yourself just who this Jesus is."  I am really impressed with the intent of the Student Work:

"Since the objective of this study is not just to fill students' minds with facts, but even more importantly to help them grow in the knowledge of their Saviour, we have designed this section to help their minds ponder Him and His teaching.  Our intent is not to use these questions to provide definitive answers, but rather to get the students thinking about the personalities and their character qualities as well as the meaning of the text and the spiritual truths it teaches."

The Student Work in the student textbook leads into the teacher's lesson, which, depending on how you schedule your school week, may very well come in the middle of the week.  The reason for this is because it is recommended that you discuss their answers to the student work as an introduction to the teacher lesson.  In doing so the student will already know many of the questions you will be discussing in the teacher lesson before you even begin.  Each chapter in the student textbook has space for the student to take notes during the teacher's lesson.

The Teacher's manual contains the teacher's lessons, copies of the student textbook along with answers to the student's fill-in-the-blank sections, as well as masters of chapter quizzes and unit tests.  Also included is a CD-rom of overhead transparencies to use with each lesson.  I'm not sure how many homeschool families will actually use these in this way since it requires an overhead projector or video equipment.  However, each 'transparency' can also be printed out, but duplicates of each are also in the student textbook so I'm not sure that this is really necessary.  Personally, I choose to not use the transparencies CD since it is just duplicating what is already in the student book.  If I were using this study in a group or classroom setting then I would most likely use the transparencies to teach the lessons since I would be teaching several students at one time instead of just my daughter.

A list of recommended scriptures for the student to memorize is also included in this study, all taken from the book of John.  While not mandatory, I choose to have my daughter memorize each lesson's corresponding scripture and have her write the verse from memory on her weekly quiz paper.

Having a daughter in high school it is my plan for her to earn a Bible credit as one of her required electives.  However, finding just the right study for her to complete in order to earn that credit is not as easy as it may seem.  The original plan was to have her earn this credit while completing the Bible study that corresponds with her American history book.  This turned out to be nearly impossible since her history is very in depth and requires most of her time during the school day.  To also complete all that is required for the Bible section was simply too much for her.  Besides, while the intent of tying history and the Bible together is a good idea, in my opinion it simply teaches facts more than helps her grow in her relationship with her Saviour.  That is what I like the most about The Life of Christ study, that the emphasis of the lessons is to challenge the student and help them apply the lessons to their own lives. 

Since it is my standard to give my complete and honest opinion of anything I review, I feel I must add that while researching the Positive Action for Christ website I came across their Doctrinal Statement and I do not agree with a few of their positions.  However, this is not a discussion on differing beliefs but I felt it important to inform you of this fact.  Despite our differing beliefs, I have yet to read anything in The Life of Christ study that teaches differently than what we teach our children, which I am very happy about since the study fits our needs so well.

To check out this study or other products from Positive Action for Christ simply click here.  They offer products for churches and Christian schools, which can also easily be adapted for homeschool families as well.  I have been considering purchasing their Bible curriculum for my other children who are in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades since I am so impressed with The Life of Christ study for our 9th grader.  If you'd like to see what each study covers you can download (or order for free) a Scope & Sequence here.

If you are interested in the Life of Christ study for your high schooler here is what it will cost you:
*Student Manual- $17.95
*Teacher's Manual- $41.95 (this is also available on DVD for $29.95)
*Deluxe Presentation DVD (which looks SUPER COOL!)- $79.95
*Overhead Transparencies (full color printed acetate transparencies)- $99.95

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Virtual Nerd

Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Education 29% of eighth grade students tested at a "Below Basic" level in math in 2009?  At least 27% (and up to 67%) of student families in grades K-12 pay for tutoring services.  Typical hourly rates for private tutoring range from $30/hour to over $200/hour.  The private tutoring industry in the U.S. is estimated at over $5 billion annually.

If you are one of these families with a student in grades 7-12 who could use a little extra help in either math or science I am happy to tell you about Virtual Nerd.  Virtual Nerd is an award-winning subscription website that offers tutorial videos 24/7 in different areas of math and science. 

Currently students can view these video tutorials and receive top-notch help in Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, and Intro. to Physics with much more scheduled to be available later this year, including Geometry, Calculus, Pre-Calculus, Chemistry, and Biology!  At only $49/month, that is like wrapping up SEVERAL tutors into one for a very affordable monthly price!  And if you're like me, when it comes to most of the subjects listed above, I'm MORE than happy to pay someone else to do the teaching and tutoring, someone who actually knows what they're doing!  LOL!

What I like most about Virtual Nerd is that as opposed to a physical-person tutor your student may see once a week for an hour at a time (if even that long), with Virtual Nerd they have 24/7 access to a tutor so the help is right there at their fingertips any time, any where.  And the amount of help available is so vast!  For example, the number of Algebra I tutorials is over 450 with over 15,000 step-by-step graphics created for just for Algebra I.  It would take a student over 18 hours to watch all the tutorial videos that go along with JUST Algebra I!  Now multiply that 18 hours by the typical hourly rate for tutors these days and I think you'll agree that Virtual Nerd is well worth looking into!

If you'd like to give Virtual Nerd a try you can do so here.  They have several subscription options, including a two-hour free trial if you'd just like to get a feel for how it all works.  One word of warning however.  On their pricing page it has an orange button that says: Educators click here, which takes you to a free educator sign up page.  This free service IS NOT available to homeschoolers.

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!