Sunday, November 11, 2012

All Over Again

My daughter is in the middle of tenth grade, so we are reaching our tenth year marker for homeschooling!  If I had to do it all over again, I would probably tweak a few things here and there curriculum-wise.  Mostly, I would use LESS, not more.  Below are my favorite choices from over the years:

Pre-K/K - Learn to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
also:  read lots and lots of books!  Fiction and Non-fiction!
Middle/High School:  BJU Literature

Pre-K - 4th - Handwriting Without Tears
2nd - How to Write a Paragraph (workbook)
3rd - 9th - Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) levels A, B, C
7th - 9th - Unjournaling

K - 6th - for natural spellers:  Spelling Plus
or:  for not-so-natural spellers:  Sequential Spelling
also:  The Logic of English (book and maybe curriculum)

7th - 12th - Wordly Wise

4th - Junior Analytical Grammar
7th - 11th Analytical Grammar

K - 8th - A Beka Math
also:  Right Start Math Games
9th - Teaching Textbooks Algebra
10th - Teaching Textbooks Geometry
also:   ALEKS

K - 2nd - A Beka Science
also:  Rub a Dub Dub, Science in the Tub
3rd - 6th Apologia Junior series (Botany, Flying Creatures, Swimming Creatures, etc.)
7th - 12th Apologia series (General, Physical, Biology, etc.)

2nd - 4th - Mystery of History I (MOH)
4th - MOH II
5th - MOH III
7th - MOH IV
8th - MOH I (again)
9th - MOH II
10th - MOH III
11th - 12th - MOH IV
supplement with library books!

2nd - 7th grade - Maps, Charts, Graphs workbooks, levels A - H

Foreign Language (Spanish)
4th - La Clase Divertida 1
6th - La Clase Divertida 2
8th - La Clase Divertida 3

Foreign Language (Latin)
9th - Getting Started with Latin
10th - Linney's Latin (free online)

Must-Read Read-Alouds
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Goodnight Moon
Little House on the Prairie (series)
Julie of the Wolves (trilogy)
Henry Reed (series)
Pippi Longstocking (series)
The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
Left Behind - (kids series)
Left Behind - (adult series - PG)
Brother Andrew
The Hiding Place (PG)
China Cry (PG)
If I Perish
The Wheel on the School
Uncle Tom's Cabin
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Giver
This Present Darkness (PG)
Not a Fan
So, What's the Difference?
It Couldn't Just Happen
Princess and the Kiss
Squire and the Scroll
Before You Meet Prince Charming
I Kissed Dating Goodbye
Chester the Crab Comix (read on their own!)
Young Peacemaker Comics

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gold Rush!

What is valued above gold? God's Word!

Above Gold is a new iPad app where you can earn gold and precious gems when you unscramble Bible verses -- the real treasure!

My husband, Paul, designed and developed this new app with goal of helping you and your kids learn and meditate on God's Word. You can unlock four levels of difficulty from "easy" to "hardest"...starting with short scripture verses and moving into longer and longer ones.  

To get the gold, you need to beat the clock to solve the puzzle. Use the golden arrows to roll the letters into the right position and create the verse. You can use hint buttons to reveal the reference, the verse or both, but it will cost you some time. 

More and more loot is added to your treasure chest as you complete each puzzle. By the end, your chest is filled with coins, gems and bouncing pearls. Surveyed kids called the treasure room "a game within a game" because they loved watching the active treasure!

More important than the earthly treasure, however, is what you might gain in head and heart knowledge as you solve, read and meditate on the scripture as you go!  

So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  Isaiah 55:11

For only $.99, you can challenge your brain, spend time in God's Word, and get some gold!  For more details about this and the other Digital Worship apps, like Dad's Prayers (free), Heavens Above, and Bible Shuffle, click here!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Rebuttal

I recently received an irate comment on my blog post entitled “The Lie.

I was surprised because that was a pretty early posting of mine, quite old, from back in March of 2011.  I’m not sure how this person stumbled across it, or why it engendered such hostile feelings, but I would like to reply to his concerns  here.  

Here is the comment in its entirety (I fixed some punctuation/grammar):

“Why are u spreading such lies and trying to deceive innocent minds...who ever said that the fruit was an apple...And the human beings God created in Genesis 1:26-27 are a totally different set of people...they were created on the 6th BEFORE Adam and Eve and sent out onto the ENTIRE EARTH to multiply and populate it.  Adam and Eve were created and placed in the little Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve were not smart.  They didn't have any understanding before they ate the fruit.  They did not understand the concept of good and evil.  And they did become like gods.  Even God said they became like him when he pronounced judgment on them.  Stop spreading lies and speak the truth.”  -- Hasheem Six

Let’s look at it, bit by bit.  (Hasheem's words will be in italics throughout.)

Why are u spreading such lies and trying to deceive innocent minds?

I am not aware of any lies in this post and I certainly would not want to spread any.  I pray about my blog posts and I try not to say things that don’t line up with the Christian scriptures.  I am human, so I am prone to error.  I don’t mind error being pointed out to me, and if you convince me, I will certainly stop.  However, I did not find your arguments convincing.  Let me explain as we go.

Who ever said that the fruit was an apple?

Certainly not me.  Nowhere in my post do I see that I call the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve an apple.  There is, however, a picture of an apple in the left hand corner just to add a little color.  No one (but God, Adam, Eve, and the snake) knows what fruit Adam and Eve ate.  We do not now have access to the fruit of the Garden of Eden, so I cannot give you a name or picture of that specific fruit.  However, it has become quite common for people to refer to the fruit as an “apple,” and I think most people understand that you are using figurative language when you do so.

By the way, in Wikipedia’s dictionary, they define apple as:

   1.      The round fruit of a tree of the rose family, 
 which typically has thin red or green skin and crisp flesh.
2.      An unrelated fruit that resembles this in some way.

Did you know the apple was part of the rose tree family?  I surely did not.  And I think the 2nd definition, “an unrelated fruit that resembles this in some way,” could possibly be applied to the fruit in the garden.  But, certainly no one should be dogmatic about that.  To my knowledge, the scripture only tells us that it looked good to eat.

And the human beings God created in Genesis 1:26-27 are a totally different set of people...they were created on the 6th BEFORE Adam and Eve and sent out onto the ENTIRE EARTH to multiply and populate it.

I’m not sure how you arrive at this assumption, Hasheem.   If Adam and Eve are not the progenitors of the ENTIRE human race, then why would their sin affect all of human-kind? 

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:  (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.  And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:  That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 5:12-21)

Repeatedly, we are told in the scriptures, that sin entered the world by ONE man.  That sin was “passed upon all men” because it passed thru the line of Adam.  Our sinful nature is genetic. 

If not, why wouldn’t a just and righteous God look down and say, “You know what, everyone is behaving well except for Adam and Eve.”  Squish.  Squish.

No, instead, sin infiltrated ALL of man.  Adam’s son Seth was born in Adam’s image (Genesis 5:3) –- a sinful man.  (And yet, his line is the line of Christ –- the one sinless Man.)

If not all men sinned through their relationship with Adam (as his children, and children’s children), then why would God destroy ALL the earth with the flood?  (See Genesis 6).

And if not all were sinners, through Adam, why did Jesus need to come?  Some of us would be okay – part of a strain of humans that never sinned.  Right?   

For God so loved  THE WORLD, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 [Emphasis mine.]

What then?  Are we better than they?  No, in no wise:  for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one:  there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.  Romans 3:9-11

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…  Romans 3:22-24

If you read Genesis 2 carefully, I think you will find that the Creation history (which began in chapter 1) comes to a close around verse 3.  A new history, that specifically of Adam and Eve, begins in verse 4.  It’s like giving an overview, and then providing specific examples.  History texts do that all the time.  First, here is an overview of the war, now here is a particular battle.  The battle happened within the context of the war, but we look at it individually to gain more insight into the history.  The Garden of Eden (the creation of man & woman and the Fall) is one particular piece within the context of the Creation.

Adam and Eve were created and placed in the little Garden of Eden . 

I am happy to agree with you here, Hasheem.  Genesis 2:8 totally backs you up on this.

Adam and Eve were not smart.

Oh, I have to disagree on this one.  Before they ate the fruit:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.   Genesis 1:27

Man was made in God’s image.  God is not stupid, so man was not created stupid.  Animals were not created in God’s image, so you may call them stupid if you wish (although I wouldn’t).  But, not man.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  Genesis 2:7

Adam was filled with God’s breath.  I’d really hesitate to call him stupid.

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.  Genesis 2:15

Have you ever planted a successful garden?  Or tended one?  I tell you, I am horrible at it.  So, the fact that Adam and Eve were expected to care for this special garden makes me think they had some good smarts on them.   Maybe you think of farming only as working with your hands, but if you don’t use your brains, you are going to starve.  (Many of the very smart men who founded America were farmers.)

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.  And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.  Genesis 2:19-20 

One of the main things that separates us from most animals and distinguishes us as having intelligence is LANGUAGE.   Humans have language.  Adam and God were on SPEAKING terms.  And Adam named everything.  It takes creativity, imagination, and LANGUAGE to accomplish this one task.  Adam was smart.

Adam was also smart enough to see that he did not want to mate with monkeys or rhinos or any other animal.  He needed human, womanly, companionship.  (By the way, if there were so many other humans already on the planet, then why couldn’t they find a helpmeet for Adam?  Why not set him up as “The First Bachelor” and prance a few of the local beauties by?  Because there weren’t any!)

They didn't have any understanding before they ate the fruit.  They did not understand the concept of good and evil.

Hmmm.  Maybe it is semantics.  But, I think I disagree here too.  They did not have any EXPERIENCE with evil.  They knew “good” very well.  They were created by a good God and placed in a good world and in a good garden.  God had declared everything “good” in Genesis 1. 

Now, a good God would not expect you to do something if you were not capable of doing it, would He?  I mean, any parent knows that you can’t expect a one-year old to understand and obey all your commands.  So, you stay close by, you monitor and you move.  But, when that child reaches age two, your expectations are higher.  When you say, “No,” that little boy or girl often knows what they are doing when they disobey.  So, you begin to expect more and possibly spank more. 

The Christian God is a good God, by definition.   He would not be a “good” God if He were to give brain-damaged (“stupid”) people a rule that they could not possibly understand or follow. 

And they did become like gods. Even God said they became like him when he pronounced judgment on them.

Let’s see what that judgement was:

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:   Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.  Genesis 3:22-24

God said that Adam had become “as one of us, to know good and evil…”  The word “as” is often translated “like”.  “Like one of us.”  “Like” can mean in all ways, or in particular ways.  I am LIKE my mother in some ways, but LIKE my father in others.   Adam became LIKE God in that he knew both good and evil.  But he, obviously, was NOT GOD (in all caps) because he did not have eternal life (he needed to eat of the Tree of Life) and he showed his un-godlikeness by being thrown out of the Garden.  If he were indeed a god, like God, there would have been a battle here.   But, he did not have any god-like powers, except the knowledge of good and evil.

Stop spreading lies and speak the truth.

I hope I have convinced you that I am not lying.  That the beliefs I hold are biblical. 
If you are interested in finding out more about creation and what the Bible has to say, you may want to check out resources from Answers in Genesis or Institute for Creation Research.  

I hope you read this knowing that there is love behind it.  I’d never want to do anything to hurt you or anyone else by my words.  In fact, my hopes are quite the opposite of that.  I pray God’s blessing over you as you read and think about these things.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sex & Abuse in the Schools

So, I wonder sometimes how crazy the world is going to get.  Don't you?

Last night I heard a news story about a teacher who is known to have abused the children in her special needs class.  There were witnesses to her hitting and encouraging other children to hit a student.  There was emotionally abusive language.  And, I'm sure there were children who feared to go to school.  Yet, the last comment made by the reporter was:  "She will be reassigned in the fall."  Um, what?  And the parents, albeit with sadness and fear, are still sending their child off on the school bus every morning.  Huh?

It is the opinion of this concerned and tax-paying parent that abusive teachers should be banned from teaching.  End of story.  And, if that is not happening, parents need to really reconsider sending their children off to school.  If they cannot homeschool or find an alternate method, they should at least be protesting and fighting a system that would allow "reassignment."

When I was growing up (oh so long ago), it seemed that schools were at least trying to work in concert with parents to help PROTECT the children in their care.  But, these days, I hear more about teachers molesting kids, or having affairs with kids, or selling drugs to kids than I do about scholastic achievement or Teachers of the Year.  Schools aren't always [I am certainly not indicting ALL schools] protecting students' bodies.  And they really aren't protecting their minds -- their innocence or their emotions.

The agenda seems to have changed drastically.  Here is a letter I recently sent off to a local public school regarding a show they put on.  You can glean the details and see what I mean!  [I have slightly changed the wording for better reading here.  The attachment alluded to can be found here: ] 

July 2012

Dear Principal of a local Public High School:

I recently attended a performance of the choirs and string orchestra of your school.  Last May, your students put on “The Show Must Go On!”

This was the first time I had attended a high school performance in some time.  I was very surprised by what I saw.  The overall focus of the show seemed not to be so much on the singing (I could tell because the kids sang very softly and did not enunciate clearly enough to be heard and understood) as on the “performing.”  Much of the performing included dancing and a few costumes that I personally found overly-sensual.

High-schoolers are generally aged around fourteen to seventeen.  At those ages, sexual behavior of any kind is illegal (not to say “immoral”).  I had to wonder why sexual behavior is being promoted in high school music productions?  I saw a whole group of young girls allowing a whole group of young boys the opportunity to run their hands down their arms and sides.  (There is a way to give the appearance of stroking without actually stroking – it is called “acting.”  These students did not learn the difference!)  I saw girls jiggle their “assets.”  I saw girls and boys paired off at every turn.  And, even more surprisingly, I saw boys with boys and girls with girls being paired off in hugging embraces, throughout the show.  I had heard that homosexuality was rampant in schools these days, but I did not realize it was being so blatantly promoted (not “tolerated” – but, “promoted”) by the administration.  Homosexuality is a sexual act, just like any other sexual act.  It is illegal for minors.  So, I wonder why it would be encouraged as a part of your music curriculum?

The song choice included a number from West Side Story called “Gee, Officer Krupke.” I had to wonder, why that particular song?  It does have a fun beat, but have you read the lyrics?  I have enclosed a copy for you.  It is disrespectful to parents (calls Dad a “bastard”) police, and all forms of authority, and uses bad language (SOB, damn, and “Krup you” is a thinly veiled “F.U.”).  It seemed unnecessarily provocative.  If we don’t want our children to act in these ways, I wonder why we promote them as fun in our school plays?

I was offended off and on throughout the entire show.  I hope that you will reconsider what you allow and don’t allow on stage in future productions.  I hope that you will encourage your teaching staff and your students to focus on the music and the acting, rather than the sexual agenda.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lightning Literature

"It was better than I thought it would be."  That is high praise for Lightning Literature & Composition coming from my ninth grader!

Lightning Lit is a series of workbooks seeking to teach "college-level composition skills by responding to great literature."  They offer full-year courses for 7th and 8th grade literature (student guide, teacher guide, workbook - $20/each).  They also offer the following one-semester courses for 9th through 12th grades:

American Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century
American Lit:  Mid to Late 19th Century

10th - 12th
British Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century
British Lit:  Mid to Late 19th Century

11th - 12th
British Lit:  Medieval
American Christian Authors
British Christian Authors
Shakespeare:  Tragedies & Sonnets
Shakespeare:  Comedies & Sonnets
World Lit 1
World Lit 2

Each of these comes with a student guide ($29.95) and a teacher's guide ($2.95).  There is bundle pricing available, including the pack of all the necessary books, and also discounts for orders of five or more of one title.

Hewitt Homeschooling provided me with a student guide and a teacher's guide for American Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century.  As a former English major, I really liked the choices of literature.  These are definitely "living books" (or selections).  Some authors covered are:  Washington Irving, Frederick Douglass, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Since it is summer vacation, I have to say, we are still working through Unit 1 -- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.  In the first chapter of the textbook, the author, Elizabeth Kamath gives a good one-page lead-in intro about Franklin's life and then another page on Pre-19th Century Literature in general.  After reading the selection, which I downloaded as a free e-book, I asked my kids the comprehension questions.  These are broken into sections of 2 to 7 questions each and go along with the section titles of the book.  In retrospect, in future I will give the questions before the reading.  My kids were surprised to be asked the names of Franklin's uncles and the number of his siblings and half-siblings (16).

After the comprehension questions comes the section on writing, directly related to the reading.  Since the work is an autobiography, the 5-page lesson is about autobiographies and what kinds of details youo might include if you write your own.  Following the lesson, there are 8 writing exercises which I thought were quite varied and appealing to students of differing interests and aptitudes.  I will be having my kids write several of them -- the author suggests picking two for each selection.

[As an interesting side-note, as I was pre-reading the selection, I came across the passage from which the IEW-style was inspired:  where Ben Franklin takes an existing writing, takes notes, re-writes, etc.]

In the Introduction to this course, the author discusses how/why to read literature and poetry.  She gives detailed descriptions of figurative language terms (similie, metaphor, personification) and sounds (alliteration, assonance, rhythm, etc.).  She goes on to describe how to write a paper, including topic statements, brainstorming, research and outlines.  These are quick but thorough passages, probably review for most students at this level.  The Appendix offers discussion questions and project suggestions, additional reading and schedules.  The author also has suggestions for vocabulary notebooks, reading journals, and more.

Although much of this book could be self-taught, I always think that literature needs discussion, so don't leave your student entirely on their own.  Discuss what they have read and what they have written.  The Teacher's Guide gives grading tips and checklists for papers, schedules (finish in 1 semester or 1 year), answers to composition questions, and additional writing assignments.

I am excited about adding this literature course into our schedule and will plan to order more in the series!  Be sure to check it out for yourself here.

I was provided a free copy of the student and teacher guide for Lightning Literature & Composition's American Lit:   Early to Mid-19th Century in exchange for an honest review.  You can see more reviews from the TOS Crew Members here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

MyMathLab - More than I Need!

One day, 2 sealed "secret envelopes" arrived in the mail.  Inside were access codes for the parent and student kits for My Math Lab from Pearson.  Following the carefully-written instructions, I went online and registered as an educator.  Smooth. Then, using the student access code, I went and set up my 9th grade daughter in the Algebra 1 class.  We each ended up with user names and passwords.

Before I get further into this review, let me digress for just a moment.  We all know that homeschooling does not always run the way we plan.  Life can get in the way.  Last month, I unexpectedly had to go in for surgery and then spend several weeks recovering.  All that went very well (praise the Lord) but, like often happens, those last 2 or 3 weeks of school slid a bit due to doctor appointments and such.  We were also in the midst of our annual homeschool convention, piano recital, dance recital practices and more.  (I am so thankful for a helpful husband and children!!!)  By the time we got to this review, we were supposed to be on summer vacation and it took some bribery to get as much done as we did.

All that to say, I want you to know up-front that we only spent about a week with this product, a little more than a half-hour a day.  I apologize to Pearson, TOS and you!  And then, my attitude was one of:  "Let's jump in and flail around and see what we can figure out."  It wasn't very systematic and I did not seek any help.  That is my normal M.O. in life and that is the process we used.  Because of that, the first four days were a bit confusing, but on the fifth day, light began to dawn and we were getting the hang of things!

What made it confusing for me, I think, was that it had so much to offer!  That sounds crazy.  But, it felt like a program that had been developed for "regular" school classrooms (30 kids in a class) and then marketed to homeschoolers.  You had options to create and add your own lessons, add due dates to all the assignments, create your own assignments, quizzes, tests, and even add videos.  There was a calendar to track assignments.  You could keep track of a plethora of students, their progress and achievements.  What I like to do with math is hand the text (or video and text) to the child, let them read the instructions, let them do the problems, and then only come to me with questions.  It is more like tutoring.  We do not generally do quizzes, tests, grading, etc.  (Did I hear a loud gasp?  I know some of you are nodding and some of you are shaking your heads.  It is okay.  I understand.)  So, all those nifty calendars, assignment sheets and things would be wasted on me.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time just trying to figure out where to start.  There are letters to parents and students that say they will tell you where to start, but they were not clear and we were lost for a bit.

As we finally got into the student side, we found that you go to the website, sign in, click on your math course, then click on the first lesson (called "practice units").  There, you find a "text book" page of instruction.  As you read, you have tools for highlighting important sections or thumb tacking notes.  The cool part about the notes was they could be added by the student or the teacher.  So, you could say "This will be on the test."  Or, "Honey, I just wanted to take a minute in your stressful day of studying to tell you I love you!"  Or "Don't forget this rule!"  Or even "After this page, go clean up your room!"  (LOL)  I really liked the notes, but thought they could size the thumb tack a little smaller.  You have the option of showing/hiding the notes as you read.

My daughter, Holly, preferred the text over the video - but that's her learning style.  She felt that some of the questions were hard at first, but most of the confusion seemed to be in how it was all being scored.  Once she figured that out, things felt more simple and she was getting in the groove.

Along the left side of the "textbook page" are listed the objectives for the lesson.  At the top left, you can choose to watch a video with an instructor explaining (using a white board) the lesson you just read.  You can watch the whole lesson, or you can watch individual sections by clicking the video icon by each objective.  The teacher was nice and perky -- okay, she made me think of a kindergarten teacher -- but she was clear and understandable.  (Holly did not find her overly perky like I did.)  The videos were nice and clear but sometimes we ran into trouble if we tried to fast forward a bit, the sound would sort of double up on itself or the video didn't seem to change at all.  No trouble if you watch from beginning to end.

There is a nice and clearly presented video showing you how to answer questions -- they have a special way of filling in fractions or square roots or other special situations.  What we found most confusing at first was just where to start, but we figured it out, so let me share!  I'll focus on lesson 1.4.  The video for that lesson was 24 minutes.  You can close-caption the video in English or Spanish and then play it with or without sound.  So, first you read the text and/or watch the video lesson.  You get a point for watching the video.  My daughter, of course, found the loophole in that you get the point for just clicking on the video.  If you close it down 2 seconds later, you still get the point as though you watched the whole thing!

Then you move to the practice questions.  For this lesson, it said there were 37 questions -- even though there were only 35.  (It could be that they meant points, because you get points for videos and such so that might change the number.)  You can see your percent correct and the number you have completed so far as you go along.  In the question box, there is a clearly worded question or equation to solve.  Below the line, there is space for you to fill in the answer.  The big reminder is that if you use fractions, always simplify first or you will get it wrong!  I thought the question/answers were very well done.

So, you work the problem and fill in the answer for number one.  You can click "Check Answer" to get immediate feedback.  The responses are many and nicely varied, including:  "good job", "well done," "fantastic," and "nice work!"  If you get it right, you get a point and can move on.  If you get it wrong, you can re-do the same problem right then.  The feedback for a wrong answer is also somewhat varied, but says something like "Sorry!  Your answer is incorrect."  Then there is a reminder rule given of how to solve the problem.  I purposely put in a wrong answer at one point (okay, I really got it wrong!) to see the response.  The response was a repetition of the rule for the lesson in using exponents, but did not address what I messed up which was the decimal point.

If you feel you need continued practice, you can then select "Choose Similar Example" and work another problem of the same type.  If you are confused, you can click on "Help Me Solve" for a detailed explanation.  Or choose "View Example" or "Text" or "Ask Teacher" or "Print."  We only tried the first two options.  If she needs to ask the teacher, I am standing right next to her.

During the 35+ problems for this lesson, I found it odd that two were repeats.  I don't know if this was done on purpose, or if there is a random list of examples, or if there was a glitch.  Either way, those 2 were really easy because Holly just looked at the scratch paper where she had worked them the first time!

You must get a 90% on each lesson in order to pass onto the next lesson.  I think this is where some major confusion came in during the first couple of days.  We are used to texts -- and even video instruction -- where you can flip the pages or move around at your own leisure and decision and look at other areas of the "book."  This program appears to be locked down (at least, I did not find a way to unlock it).  When you finish the first 8 practice units, you then can take a quiz.  When you pass the quiz, you can take the test, and so on.  You cannot go ahead or skip around.  I do like that you have to get 90% -- working toward mastery.

There were 113 assignments for Algebra I, including homework, quizzes, tests and final exams.  Again, you can add more assignments, tests, quizzes, etc. at will.  I could be wrong, but I thought that most homeschoolers would not use that feature very much -- unless they were previously public school teachers.  I guess I can only really say that I would not use it.

After you complete your practice "homework," you can view a chart of your results for the week.  You can see the number you got correct for each lesson, your score, the time spent and the date/time you completed it.  The teacher, from his/her vantage point, has access to all this information as well.  So, if you have specific due dates, you can make sure they were met.  And, of course, the computer grades everything for you.  (That is nice.)

So, again, I thought the registration process was easy.  I thought the video for "how to answer" was well done.  And the lesson text and videos were well done.  I liked the ability to highlight or add notes to the text, but I thought otherwise there were too many bells and whistles that most homeschoolers would find superfluous -- and that meant there were a lot of confusing things to wade through in order to find the meat of the product.  The instructions for what to do (how to get started) were not intuitively obvious and could be made much simpler.  Once you get in there, the math seems to be solid and understandable.  I would prefer more flexibility in reading/looking ahead or even trying ahead.

Pearson sells My Math Lab parent access for $30 and the student access for $49.97.  You do need both according to the instruction folder.  You receive access for eighteen months.  You do need separate student access kits for every course.  Other courses offered by Pearson are:  Developmental Math, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Trigonometry, Business Math, Statistics, Computer Math, and others.  Pearson has other labs besides math -- social studies, reading, and more -- be sure and check those out too!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  To see more reviews of this product, click here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Amazing History Resource!

Heritage History is "putting the 'story' back in 'history'."  A homeschooling mom and dad from Washington State have collected over 500 children's history stories that have long since gone out of print, and reproduced them in one easy, convenient location.  Looking for a story from Ancient Greece or the Spanish Empire days?  They've got them. You can find and read all of the stories online, but for your convenience, and in order to support their efforts at preserving history, you can purchase CDs or e-reader versions.  

"The mission of Heritage History is to make old-fashioned history books, written for the enjoyment of young people, easily available."

I was given a copy of British Empire to review.  From the cover:  This curriculum "focuses on 18th and 19th century world history, presented from a British viewpoint.  Stories that highlight achievements of modern Britain, such as scientific discovery, exploration, invention and industry, and the rise of international commerce are featured, along with those that cover the regional histories of Ireland, Canada, British Africa, and East Asia."

A few of the 57 stories included are:
Struggle for Sea Power
Our Island Story - the Hanoverians
Oom Paul's People
Boy of Old Japan
Thrilling Deeds of British Airmen
The Boy's Book of Battles
Heroes of the Indian Mutiny
Captain Cook
Horatio Nelson
In the Days of Queen Victoria
Florence Nightengale
and Land of the Golden Trade

Don't some of those titles just MAKE you want to grab up the book and read it?  There's more to it than just the books that have been captured and preserved.  This disc also holds 50 historical maps.  My son just loves to look at stuff like that!  

"Heritage History [also] provides pre-printed study guides to accompany each of its Classical Curriculum CDs.  Each study guide includes historical maps, outline maps, time-lines, era summaries, character lists, battle dictionaries, recommend[ed] reading lists and other study aids."  A huge wealth of information that would supplement any history study -- if not fulfill all of it.  If you buy the CDs, you get the study guide included in .pdf form.  If you just want to read the stories online, you can purchase the study guide separately pre-printed in color for $24.99 or download for $12.99.

So, for this CD, you get 57 books, 50 maps and the study guide for $24.99.  What an amazing resource.  The website is really well done, easy to navigate and gives you lots of "freebies" as you go along.  You can easily tell what stories are geared for elementary and which are geared for "intermediate" or "advanced" readers.  

There are other eras to choose from.  Besides British Empire, there is:

Ancient Greece
Ancient Rome
Middle Ages & Reformation
British Middle Ages
Christian Europe
Early Modern to 20th Century
Introduction to Western Civilization
Spanish Empire
and Young Readers

If you want your kids to ENJOY history, rather than just PASS history, then take a few minutes and really check these out!  I think you will be glad you did!  There is a spring sale going on right now, buy 2, get one free!

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was provided a free copy of The Heritage History British Empire Classical Curriculum CD for free in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Every Time We Learn Something about Science..."

"...we learn something about our Creator, God!"

These words are echoed after every experiment on the Go Science videos.  Presenter Ben Roy, who combines the enthusiasm of a fitness trainer with the sparkle of a magician, puts a ton of energy into teaching kids about, well, energy, but also about motion, magnetism, electricity, engineering and design.  Mr. Roy "teaches science methods at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is the former director of a science program on television."  He also puts on mobile science shows.  You can find out more about him at  the Science Zone

I was privileged to view Volumes 1 and 3 of a six-volume DVD set.  I set the player to start without telling my kids what I was doing.  My 13 year-old son almost immediately came over, lay down in front of the TV and began watching.  My 15 year-old daughter pretended not to be too interested, but she kept peeking over the newspaper and watching as well.

On Volume 1:  Motion:  Discovering the Laws of Gravity and Motion, we liked the Gyroscope experiment the best.  Besides using a regulation gyroscope, Mr. Roy set a bicycle wheel spinning on a small rope.  You wouldn't think it would keep steady, but it does!  He explained the science behind it in simple terms, but then went on to use the gyroscope as an object lesson about how Jesus Christ helps us maintain our balance in life.

The next experiment, the Newtonian Cradle, was another favorite.  Mr. Roy used a hugely over-sized version of the five clacking balls you sometimes find on people's desks.  I think this was the best demonstration I have ever seen of Newton's Law of Motion:  "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

There were seven demonstrations on Volume 1, each averaging about 4 to 5 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes.  Some other experiments were the Ring and Chain (we still can't figure that one out!), the Frisbee, the Egg Spin, and Inertia.  The final experiment on that disc was the Ball, Ring and Sphere.  For part of it, he used one of those crazy toys called a Hoberman Sphere to explain how atoms can be close together or far apart.  That was pretty neat!

On Volume 3:  Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering, Design, there were one or two experiments that would probably only appeal to the younger crowd:  mixing colors, monster magnets, and making a compass -- pretty basic.  But, then Mr. Roy brought out some heavy equipment like a Tesla Coil, a Jacob's Ladder, and one of those Static Electricity makers which everybody loves to watch.  These would capture the interest of the older kids, plus they are things you don't generally have laying around the house!

The final discussion on that disc was about plastic pre-forms, and since he was just showing a small test tube and a 2 liter bottle and talking about how one can turn into the other, I was thinking, "This is not too exciting."  But, then, he went on talking about how we are like that pre-form tube, waiting for when Jesus returns and changes our flawed sinful bodies into new, perfect, and whole ones.  Then I thought, "This was the best one of all!"

Volume 3 was a longer video, almost 55 minutes.  This one held 14 demonstrations, averaging 4 minutes each.  Obviously, these short video segments are only supplements to use with your regular science curriculum, but I think they would make a nice visual addition to your teaching arsenal.  

The suggested age-range for these videos is 6 to 14.  I would probably cut that to 6 to 12.  Not because the demonstrations wouldn't interest the older crowd, but because the explanations weren't detailed enough for them.


I loved how unashamedly Christian these DVDs are.  You can buy the set of 6 for $47.95 or individually for $8.97/each (a savings of $6 off retail).  I ordered them through Library and Educational Services which is a small Christian family company in Michigan who offers the same wholesale discounts to homeschoolers as they do to other types of schools.  Be sure to check them out as well!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given Volumes 1 and 3 of the Go Science videos for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What I'm Doing Right Now

The thing about Facebook is that people love to post what they are doing "right now."  I am eating a sandwich right now.  I am enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with the folks right now.  I am playing a game with my son right now.

But, are you really doing those things "right now?"  How can you be doing those things and typing them up at the same time?  How engaged are you with your sandwich, your folks, or your kids, if you have to bend your head, look away, pick up your electronic device, and think about what to tell everyone (who really aren't that interested, by the way)?

It used to be the cell phone.  We'd be out at dinner, and I'd see a couple ostensibly on a date, or a parent supposedly "spending time with their kids."  But, they were cradling the cell phone and talking with someone else.  Their partner or image-bearer were left rather bored and lonely.

Before that, it was the video recorder.  I remember those big clunky things and the person who was behind the view-finder was literally out of the action for the day.  They did not "live" that day -- they merely recorded what everyone else did.

To paraphrase Tennyson, "It is better to have lived and not recorded it all, than to have never lived at all."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Look Up!

In the day, we see blue skies, grey skies, clouds, and the all-powerful sun.  At night? The vastness of space. The stars, oh so many stars! The moon, a witness to days and seasons and a producer of tides. And other planets, like ours, and yet not like ours, helping us discern our specialness in the universe.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.  Psalm 19:1

Heavens Above is a new iPad app which will help you see God's glory!  My husband designed Heavens Above as a presentation of 77 space photos gleaned from Hubble Space Telescope and paired with Bible verses on the theme of God's glory.  Use them in your devotional time to meditate on God's vast power, His grace, His majesty, and His creativity.  Choose one picture a day, or play them all, one after another, like a slide show.  You could play your favorite praise music behind the scenes to add to the  mood of worship.

Heavens Above includes an amazing image index showing all 77 photos at once, plus a list of definitions to help you identify a spiral galaxy from a globular cluster.  The verse index allows you to scroll through all the pictures and their Bible verses.

This is the 3rd app produced by my husband's company, Digital Worship.  Click to go to the website to see this or his other apps, Dad's Prayers (a FREE devotional) and Bible Shuffle (a fun and educational game).  Or, go straight to the Apple store and purchase for only $0.99!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Got Duct Tape?

"Hello, my name is Jason from!"  So begins the friendly greeting of each of 23 different science experiments featured on Volume 1 of Amazing Science!  If you have common household items like duct tape, eggs, matches and magnets, you are ready to go. 

Jason Gibson "has earned advanced degrees in Engineering and Physics, worked as a Rocket Scientist for NASA, and has a passion for teaching Science and Math!"  Unlike some engineers, Jason does have some personality and does not talk over your head.  His tone is conversational and his attitude is happy.  He shows and explains the materials you need for each experiment, and then goes on to demonstrate some amazing feats of science.  With the use of  several camera angles (including the ones like they use in cooking shows, top down), you get clear pictures of what is happening in the experiment.  

Some of the experiments we had seen and done before:  Egg in a Bottle, Lifting an Ice Cube with a String, Keeping Paper Dry Under Water, and Invisible Ink.  A couple of the experiments went right along with our Apologia Physical Science and General Science texts:  Matchstick Speedboats, Floating Eggs, Balloon in a Candle Flame, and the Density Tower.  And a couple of them were brand new and pretty impressive:  Building a Lemon Battery, Making a Cloud in a Bottle, Building a Motor with Lights and, one of my favorites, Dry Ice Bubbles!  There are more, but you get the idea!

Mr. Gibson does a good job of presenting each experiment in an organized way.  I liked how his props were often colorful so that you could really distinguish all the parts.  We've done Color Changing Milk before, but he got even better results than we did, so it was fun to watch.  After each demonstration, he goes on to explain the science involved, covering "electricity, magnetism, heat, temperature, pressure, surface tension, buoyancy and much more."  The experiments average about 10 minutes, though a few are closer to 15 to 20 minutes long.  My kids found some of the explanations slightly redundant, but the information was always good and the demonstrations themselves were great.

This volume appears to be religion-neutral -- with no mention of God or evolution that I picked up on.

You can get all 23 experiments together on 2 DVDs on their website for $19.95, a $5.00 discount from the retail list price.  Or, you can download all the experiments to your computer for only $17.99 and not have to worry about shipping!  Besides Amazing Science!, have other math, science, physics and chemistry DVD sets available.  You can also get free videos e-mailed to you if you join their mailing list.

I think these DVDs would be good for kids who LOVE science as well as those who STRUGGLE with science.  Seeing some of the demonstrations might be a good way to provoke interest in your children who are normally less interested.

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I received this 2-DVD set for free in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

God's Nature Reflects God's Nature

Today I walked down a single block in a very small town.  On my right was a lovely landscaped retention pond with a fountain bursting forth from the center.  Nearby a tall white heron stalked its dinner.  On my left, in an even lovelier ditch -- lovelier for its wildness -- was a mini-woodpecker.  I've never seen one on the ground before...taking a break from pecking.  His Clorox-white feathers were startlingly clean, his brown feathers ruffling in the light breeze.  Just feet from him, waddling in the tiniest puddle were three ducks, as alike as they were different.  Each had its own pattern of brown and white, all distinguishable as separate and individual.

Hidden by his very stillness, a blue heron stood tall behind these diminutive ducks, thinking I could not see him.  I am so glad I saw him -- and all of the rest of those creatures.  They reminded me of my God's infinite creativeness, His perfection, and His power.  "God is in the details."  Why make so many different kinds of birds?  Why not just one?  And why not all the same color?  Because He could.  Because it is part of His nature.  Because He could not make a world devoid of COLOR and full of care.  He did not create ugly.

When you look in the mirror you can know that you also are a part of His masterpiece.  You are unique and specially designed.  God did not create anyone else who is exactly like you.

For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead...Romans 1:20a

Friday, March 16, 2012

Literary Temptations

My Dear Wormwood,
How do you think you will ever learn anything about British Literature if you don't read any?  And if you are going to read some, how about my letters, appropriately entitled The Screwtape Letters?  And if you are going to bother to read them, why not study them, analyze them for their literary qualities (I assure you there are many), and make sure that you digest every word I have sent you?  You can do all that more easily if you use the Literature Guide provided by Progeny Press!  Now get to work, you scruffy little demon!
Your mildly affectionate uncle,
Okay, so I made that letter up.  But, Screwtape has a great idea there.  If you'd like help in your homeschool with analyzing literature, Progeny Press study guides are an awesome resource!  I was privileged to receive the guide for The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, but there are many other options available, including American, British, Historical, World, and Christian Literature.  A few of the titles covered are:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Call of the Wild
The Scarlet Letter
The Lord of the Rings
A Tale of Two Cities
Romeo & Juliet
The Hiding Place
Number the Stars
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Bronze Bow
and many, many more in their catalog
The study guides are offered in booklet ($21.99), CD ($18.99), or e-mail .pdf formats ($18.99).  They also sell the novels; this one would have cost $13.99.  I received the .pdf version which included a 75 page Student Guide, plus a 10 page Answer Key for the teacher/parent.  This version is interactive on Windows or Mac computers.  I could also read the file on my iPad, but not "interact" with it.  (The guides for 4th to 12th grades are interactive, but the kindergarten through 3rd grade are read-only.)

Progeny Press recommends each of their guides to cover from 8 to 10 weeks of study.  Generally, students should read the entire novel the first week and then use the guide to review, analyze and gain insights into what they read.  

The Screwtape Letters guide began with a brief synopsis of the novel, followed by information about C.S. Lewis, the author, and a few pages of background on the Battle of Britain which plays a role in the story.  These details are followed by a selection of pre-reading activities which can be assigned before reading or during that first week of reading.  Then, you are ready to get down to business.  For each section, in this case, about 4 "letters" (chapters) at a time, students are asked vocabulary questions in multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the blank, synonym/antonym, and word search forms.  These are fun for the kids to fill in on the computer.  

Vocabulary segments are followed by a plethora of thought-provoking questions on all levels.  Some elicit what the student knows about what happened (why did Screwtape write to Wormwood?) and others deal with literary analysis (how is parody used?).  Some can be answered with a word or phrase, others require paragraphs.  Go as deep as you want.

Each section then lists optional activities such as papers, reports, and projects that could be chosen to add to all that learning.  At the end of the guide were also a large number of final essay topics ranging in varying lengths required.  At the very end was a list of additional resources.

Personally, I don't think you could (or should) do every question/project listed -- there is so much -- I prefer to think of it as "so much to choose from!"  I had my kids work through the vocabulary, then asked some questions orally and had them fill in a few "online."  We did not attempt every question by any means!  Although we have not begun it yet, I really liked the final essay idea of writing your own letter (as Screwtape) giving Wormwood advice on how to tempt you!  That would take some real introspection and also biblical insight.

Speaking of the Bible, Progeny Press is a Christian company and their guides present literature from a Christian perspective.  This was easy to see with The Screwtape Letters because it is a Christian work, but this is also true with their other 100+ titles.

Although I have a background in English Education, guides like this one are a great time-saving device for me!  The questions are clear, well-thought out, and make your students think.  Hopefully, that is temptation enough for you to try one (or more) guides out for yourself!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received this guide free in exchange for an honest review.  To see what other TOS reviewers had to say, click here.