Friday, October 28, 2011

Dead or Alive?

"Latin is not dead, it's immortal!"

These words are found in the introduction of Memoria Press' First Form Latin by Cheryl Lowe.  Ms. Lowe continues:

"It is the most fruitful language in human history.  It is the mother of the five Romance languages, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian.  More than half of English words come from Latin.  It is the language of the classification system for plants and animals.  All of the modern sciences, from psychology to physics, derive most of their specialized vocabularies from Latin.  It is the language of law and theology.  When you learn Latin words you will be preparing yourself for almost any field of study you can imagine.  Even the word computer comes from the Latin word for I think, compute, computo" (page 3, Student Text).
First Form Latin (grades 5-12) is designed to follow Latina Christiana (grades 3-6) and I think that if we had started with the foundation of that earlier program, First Form might not have appeared so intimidating.  As it was, I was graciously provided with 7 items:

  • Teacher's Manual
  • Teacher's Manual Workbook & Test Key
  • Quizzes & Tests Book
  • Student Textbook
  • Student Workbook
  • Flashcards
  • and Instructional DVDs.
Juggling all of these resources was a bit of a struggle for me.  Where to begin?  Especially considering I only know 3 Latin phrases:

  • cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am)
  • veni vidi vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)
  • and cave canum (beware of dog).
My daughter knows much more, so she let me know that First Form uses the ecclesiastical pronunciation rather than the classical pronunciation that she is used to.  The differences are minor in my opinion, but she felt it was awkward to switch over.  I liked that Cheryl Lowe states:  "A fastidious concern about pronunciation is an impediment to learning a language.  Those who will plunge in and speak a modern language learn much more quickly than those who are self-conscious about pronunciation."

We watched the first few lessons on the DVD and found Glen Moore to have a straight-forward, yet sometimes dryly humorous teaching style.  He tries to compact a lot into one lesson which, if you haven't studied a lot of grammar before-hand, could be overwhelming.

First Form is definitely designed with the classroom in mind.  I think it would work great in a homeschool co-op setting, and that is what is recommended by the author.  It can, of course, be adapted for family use, but probably not as well for independent study.  The DVD instruction by Glen Moore is a great idea as it takes some of the burden off Mom.

Completion of First Form Latin is the equivalent of a full-year high school course.  The 34 lessons are nicely laid out.  "A full week's schedule consists of 5 parts:

A) Lesson
B) Workbook
C) Oral Drill
D) Quiz or Test
E) (Optional) Lingua Angelica and/or Famous Men of Rome or other Memoria Press history resources" (page vii, Teacher's Manual).

Each lesson begins with an opening, recitation and review, followed by a Latin saying, vocabulary, grammar "chalk talks" and explanations.

Instructions are scripted for the teacher and sample lesson plans are provided.  Helps (For Your Information) are provided for the teacher/mom, like me, who does not have a Latin background.  For instance, in the opening of the first unit, the idea of voice and mood are explained.

All in all, I think the program is beautifully designed for (again) classroom use.  If you have a few (or a lot of) students you can gather for instruction, then you would find your efforts greatly facilitated with these resources.  However, if you intend only having your one or two children tackle a program, and you don't have prior Latin experience, I'd probably look elsewhere.  If your children are young enough to begin with Latina Christiana (grades 3-6) or even Prima Latina (grades 1-4), then I would highly suggest those programs as preparation for this program later.

The First Form Latin Set (Student Text & Workbook, Teacher Manuals, Quizzes and Tests, and Pronunciation CD) sells for $55.00.  The pieces can be bought individually as well.  You can get the First Form Latin Set plus the DVDs and Flashcards for $115.00.

Memoria Press offers a lot of other homeschool resources including helps for Latin, Greek, French, Literature Guides and more.  You probably have guessed that their materials are geared toward a Classical education (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric).  You can find more about them and what they have to offer here.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was provided this set of materials  free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  For more TOS reviews, click here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Peanut Man

"It is not the style of clothes one wears,
neither the kind of automobile one drives,
nor the amount of money one has in the bank that counts. 
These mean nothing.  It is simply service that measures success." 
-- George Washington Carver

By his own definition, and mine, George Washington Carver was a man of huge success.  Freed from slavery as a young child, he worked diligently to free his people from ignorance and poverty.  His achievements during the Reconstruction period are amazing.  He was the first black man to study at Iowa State, earning a Master's degree in Botany.  Later, he gave up a lucrative teaching post there to work for Booker T. Washington at Tuskeegee Institute.  There he worked with students and farmers to improve soil and crop conditions.  He taught the importance of rotating crops.  And, after the boll weevil had its way, he helped in the propagation of peanuts and another plants that would become their own industry.  As a naturalist, Carver recognized and gave God glory for all that he saw.  He spent his time working and pulling up his brothers, rather than in fighting or despising the white man that put them down.

George Washington Carver -- His Life and Work is a thought-provoking DVD published by Marshall Publishing & Promotions, Inc.  It has a slow, relaxed feel to it.  It opens with beautiful views of nature, plants and animals, and quotes from Carver about God's creation.  The slow pace continues as a very southern voice narrates his life story and accomplishments.  The peaceful pace remains as we see still photos and a few live recordings of Carver.

The video is aimed at children 4th grade and above.  My middle and high schooler found it a bit tame, and would have preferred more drama and his life acted out.  But, I appreciated the continual references to Carver's knowledge of God and the wonders of His creation and felt that the information we learned was valuable and meaningful.  The video is only 30 minutes long, so there isn't too much time for boredom to set in from the pacing.

There was one comment troubling to a young-earth creationist like me (Carver says "millions and millions of years"), but other than that, evolution is flatly negated ("it couldn't have happened by accident").

Marshall Publishing has several educational DVDs available, including The History of the Mississippi River, Lincoln at Gettysburg, The Oregon Trail & The Pony Express.  Videos sell for $24.95 if you want full public performing rights and $19.95 for individual use.  If you decide to buy this video due to reading this review, you can use the coupon code TOSC1 at checkout to save an additional 15% -- that makes the DVD only $16.95!   On the same site, you can find other fun and educational DVDs, books, and audio CDs.  Be sure to check out what they have to offer!

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was provided this DVD free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  For more TOS reviews, click here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Doesn't Taste Better with Ketchup?

Uh, let's see:  mashed potatoes, burritos, or rats?
What would be the grossest thing to kiss?  A moose, an octopus?  Anything!
What's the most annoying thing about being a kid?  Not enough candy!

These were just a few of the questions we giggled over as we scribbled out possible answers during the game Say Anything:  Family Edition by Northstar Games.  Before we finished the first round out of two, my son was already begging that we extend into 3rds or 4ths. 

This game reminds us of Apples to Apples, but with several twists.  The judge chooses a question from a stack of cards and reads it aloud.  The other players write down their answers on their own personal little white-boards with little wipe-off markers.  Your answer can be serious or silly, whatever you think will appeal to the judge (silly usually wins in our family).  The judge uses a little turn dial (like a handheld spinner) with a high-tech sounding name -- the Select-o-matic 6000 -- to choose a winner.  He places his choice face down.  Everyone then tries to guess what the judge picked and place little markers on their favorites to win.  If you guess the same as the judge, you win a point or two.  If you wrote the winning answer, you get a point.  Even if you are the judge, you can win points if other people made good guesses.   The scorekeeper uses a larger wipe-off board to tally points and the judge-ship moves to the left.  The game is over after everyone has been the judge two times, so you can keep playtime short if that is your goal.

The score-board, wipe-off boards, select-o-matic, and even the questions are nice and sturdy and should last a good while as long as you remember to wipe off the answers before the ink sinks in (like any white board).   It is conceivable that, in time, you would have to replace the markers just because that is the nature of markers.

As for the questions, they range in seriousness to silliness, but everything appeared G-Rated.  There were only 3 references I didn't think my kids would get (Taylor Swift, The Simpsons, and Halloween candy), and since you have a choice of 3 questions per card, you never have to ask those if you don't want to.  This game is designated for 3 to 6 players, ages 8+.  My 12- and 14-year-olds enjoyed it, as well as my husband and I did.  Everyone agreed that this was a keeper, in fact we'll be taking it over to Grandma's house tomorrow to play again! 

This game sells for $14.99 at Amazon if you'd like to pick one up for your next family game night or even for a party!  You can see my review of another of North Star Games' fun products, Wits and Wagers, here.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was provided this game free in exchange for an honest review.  For more TOS reviews, click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Does Anything Last?

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8 

Every thing we see around us is seasonal and temporal. That includes our trials and tribulations, our triumphs and jubilations. All of it will pass away. Some things pass quickly. The fight you had yesterday with your husband is almost forgotten. The pain you had in childbirth barely recalled. The big plans you laid in your teens and twenties? What were they?

We have changed. Our hopes, our dreams, our bodies. We do not look, feel or act the same as we always did. And our circumstances change around us: our friends, our dwelling place, our day to day employment.

But, there are other things that never change. The glory and compassion of God. The importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The names written in the Lamb's Book of Life.  I am so glad I can count on God's Word to remain the same.

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is,through the living and enduring word of God.

And this is the word which was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:22-26

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Like Wits & Wagers? You bet!

We had a lot of fun testing out the Wits & Wagers Family game by North Star Games.  Choosing from the stack, the first question is read aloud.  Everyone whips out their trusty little wipe-off boards and pens and quickly writes a guess.  The guesses are then placed in number order on the table, or floor, or wherever you happen to be playing.  Then you decide whether you like your answer best, or someone else's.  You have two "Meeples" playing pieces, one large (2 pt) and one small (1 pt), and you use them to "wager" on the correct answer.  You can place both on your own answer, one on yours and one on some else's, or both on other people's cards.  There is always a "1" card available if you think everyone's answers are too high.  When the answer is read, points are scored for the winning guess that is closest to the correct answer without going over, and for any Meeples placed on that card.  The wagering aspect makes it easier for the younger players to get points, since they don't have to think of the correct answer themselves.

Since every question involves a number or statistic of some sort, there is a lot of estimating going on (unless you just happen to know the correct answer -- and, mostly, you won't).  For example:

*In feet, how wide is a regulation soccer goal? 
*What percent of Girl Scout cookies sold are Thin Mints? 
*On average, how many hours per day does a wild sloth sleep? 

Each number answer is accompanied by an interesting, and sometimes silly, fact.  The first player to reach 15 points wins, so the game doesn't last super-long unless you decide to go into extra innings just for the fun of it.

There were only a handful of references that my children wouldn't know (i.e., The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) or that we would not appreciate (i.e., Harry Potter), but these are easily dealt with by skipping the question, blotting it out, throwing it away, or setting it on fire, depending on your level of enthusiasm about it.

The instructions are simple and clear and the wipe-off boards, Meeples and question cards are both colorful and engaging for the prescribed ages 8+.  You can play 3 to 5 individuals at a time, or break a larger group into teams, so this is a great game for a family night or a fun party.  North Star Games also sells a "Party" version of this game.

Wits & Wagers Family sells for about $15.00 at Amazon.  This coming Friday afternoon, you can check out my review of another of North Star Games' fun products, Say Anything, here.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was provided this game free in exchange for an honest review.  For more TOS Crew reviews, click here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Homeschooling Resource "Must-Have"

So, where was this book nine years ago, when I started homeschooling?

Educating the WholeHearted Child, by Clay and Sally Clarkson of Whole Heart Ministries, has actually been around since 1994, before my children were even born, but this is the first time it has been in my hands.  I wish I had owned it back then.  The 3rd edition, published earlier this year, is a treasure-trove of almost everything you could need to know about homeschooling.

The Clarksons begin with the assumption that you believe homeschooling is a good idea, but they give you plenty of reasons to re-examine your heart on the issue.  They want you to start with the basic foundation and conviction that homeschooling is part of God's plan for home and family:
"The home is the only institution designed and provided by God in scripture for training children" (pg. 13).
They examine the purposes for homeschooling and boil their vision down to this:
"Our vision is to help you keep faith in your family" (pg. 16).
This nearly 400-page resource is broken down into four major sections:  home, learning, methods, and living.  The writing is clear and concise, so you can skim through or dive right in to any section or chapter without feeling lost.

I can't stress enough how much information is here.  The Clarksons help define goals and solidify your reasons for homeschooling.  They back everything up with pertinent scriptures, studies, quotes, and personal experience on the margins of every page.

One of my favorite parts is about knowing "What to Do when Cornered by a Critic:" 
"Always remember that these vocal adversaries of homeschooling are not neutral.  You can generally assume their criticisms have been cooking for some time, and you just happen to be the one who gets to taste what's in their mental oven.  You don't have to swallow their arguments, but don't throw them back in their face either.  Your 'gentle answer' may help convert a critic into an inquirer and maybe even a friend" (pg. 31).
They go on to give you valid ideas for how to answer: 

  • the Legislation Question,
  • the Education Question,
  • the Socialization Question,
  • the Qualification Question, and 
  • the Reputation Question (Section 1, chapter 2).

One of the main topics of this book is discipleship, how to birth and nurture your child's relationship with God.
"There is always the temptation to reduce discipleship to a program, a project, a course of study or a set of rules.  This may be especially true in a curriculum-driven homeschooling community.  The danger when that happens is not about doing something biblically wrong, but about missing the biblical dynamic and fulfillment of home discipleship as it could be -- the influence of personal relationships, the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, and the joy of the journey exploring God's path of life together" (pg. 58).
In the Methods section, the advice becomes even more practical, giving specific ideas for how to teach reading, history, geography, fine arts, science, foreign language, and other subjects.  The over-arching premise is a whole-book approach to learning, eschewing textbooks for biographies and other "living books."

Other interesting chapters deal very effectively with personality types and learning styles, testing vs. not testing, family roles, celebrating holidays, structure and order in the home, and support groups.  There are a plethora of useful forms and reading lists.

If you are new to homeschooling, I would recommend this book as a "must-have."  If you've been around a while, I think it could help get you rejuvenated or restructured.  I was definitely reminded of many things I meant to do and I now have a list of things to do and think about, including:
  1. Record Holly reading so she can hear how she sounds when she reads to fast or too low.
  2. Plan to take a family missions trip.
  3. Think about early graduation into independent study and employment.
  4. Write Night (everybody writes a story).
  5. Ask "real questions" (i.e., why do we homeschool? or why must I be saved?) and have kids research biblical and extra-biblical sources for a written response.
  6. Set up a more permanent learning space.
  7. Hold a "project day" and allow kids to work on things that interest them.
I only took exception to one line in the book.  The Clarksons do not advocate spanking (pg. 67), but they present their ideas, with a lot of grace for those who disagree (like me), so I'll extend grace to them as well.

Educating the WholeHearted Child is published by Apologia/WholeHeart.  If you haven't heard of Apologia by now, you must be very new to homeschooling!  I am most familiar with their Exploring Creation science curriculum by Jeannie Fulbright (elementary) and Jay Wile (upper levels).  They also offer online courses in science, apologetics and worldview.  You can find this book on their website for the regular price of $22.00 (but it appears to be on sale for $20.00 at the moment).

Though this book is intended for parents of children ages 4 to 14, I think there is plenty of meat, especially in the first 2 sections, even for high-schooling families.  In fact, I'd even consider assigning my high-schooler to read a few sections to learn the hows and whys of homeschooling for the future instruction of her own children.

This is one of those books that deserves the title "Resource" and that you will want to read and review, at least in sections, over and over again.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was provided this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  For more TOS Crew reviews, click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Redeem the Time

This year, I find myself chauffeuring my kids to outside events more than ever.  I was finding myself with a lot of wasted time on my hands.  I would get the kids out the door, drive them where they needed to be, and then ask, "Now, what am I going to do?"  There are five hours of dance, two and a half hours of sports club activities, and another hour of piano lessons where I was just sitting, doing nothing, or worse, looking for treats in the food or shopping line to pacify myself.  I had to do something else.  So, I compiled a list:

What I Can Do While the Kids are Involved in Sports/Music/Other Activities

  • Quiet Time - I can read my Bible and pray (duh!)
  • TOS Reviews - I can keep up with my blog and review schedule by reading assigned works and jotting down notes
  • Write - I can write stories for my kids (if I get the inspiration) and I can write letters/e-mails to friends/family
  • Mpact Girls - I can pray for my teen class and prepare the lesson for the week
  • Read - I can read for fun or information
  • Plan - I can plan for literature or other subjects that take a little time
  • Visit - I have a couple of friends nearby the locations where I am waiting; I could pop over
  • Run Errands - I can go to the bank, the library, or the store
  • Walk - I can walk (or even swim at the rec center) for exercise, fresh air, and enjoying Creation

Just giving purpose to these alone-times has improved my attitude and productivity tremendously.  Now, I get myself prepared before we leave the house.  I grab pertinent books, writing materials, lists, etc.  I even try to remember to take a healthy snack along so I am not tempted by nearby McDonalds or Slurpee stores.
See then that you walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Holy Amazing

You may have heard the phrase, "God is in the details." 
Look for a moment at the details of this Alaskan flower:


Ever since the creation of the world, His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. So [we] are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

God's work is amazing.  His attention to detail even more so.  We can look on this multi-petaled flower and see the miraculous design.  But, then we can grab a microscope and see the design within each plant cell, even each atom.  God did not cut any corners.

On our vacation to Alaska, we were flabbergasted by the quantity of huge, beautiful flowers.  Their colors were vibrant and varied.  Each one calls out to its own pollenators and each one breathes out its own pleasant aroma.  

Without the plants, we would not have enough oxygen in the air.   Flowers are necessary to the plant's life and therefore necessary to ours.  But, did God have to make them so intricate, so beautiful?  He did, because that is part of His character.