Thursday, April 27, 2017

{Homeschool Product Review} ~ Drive Thru History

I love teaching history! So when Drive Thru History® asked me to review  Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” I knew it would be lots of fun to check out.

Drive Thru History

What It Is:


This is a DVD educational series. There are three discs with a total of 18 episodes. The episodes, which are a half hour in length, focus on a topic from the Gospels. They move chronologically and begin with the announcement of Christ's coming. Other episodes cover Jesus' early life, his teachings, miracles, travels, The Last Supper, his Crucifixion, and Resurrection.


Drive Thru History The Gospels


Now please do not think these are just boring lectures on the Gospels. The teacher/narrator of the series is Dave Stotts. He does an excellent job of bringing these stories to life, and gives lots of historical notes about the events in the Gospel. He actually recorded the episodes in the Holy Land which my girls thought was fascinating. In one episode he is standing at the city limits to Nazareth, on the side of a six-lane highway. To think that Jesus walked in this very place really brings the Gospel to life.

He visits many sites in the area and walks through olive groves, city streets, and churches that now stand on historic landmarks.




Drive Thru History The Gospels



He also uses lots of artwork through the series as well. At times I do struggle with images of God and Christ, but it is not overwhelming, and truly, it is art.



 {transfiguration}


As he moves through the timeline of the Gospels, he gives lots of historical insight and background to the stories. These are quite captivating, and we all would sit and eagerly watch this intriguing series.



How We Used This and What We Thought:

Three days a week, the girls and I would sit and watch an episode. A couple of times I would pause the DVD to ask questions or do some explaining. We loved the cinematography. It was done very professionally and the graphics and art shown were top notch. I thought it was so neat that he was actually in Israel; we really loved seeing theses places that were so important in the Gospels as they look today. At one point he crossed the border into Palestine and we saw how modern people are living there today.





The DVD's come in a very well made DVD case that includes a study guide. There is a summary of each episode with thought questions and scriptures to read. So after we watched each episode, we would discuss the questions. These pertained directly to the content that was in the episode and brought out some great discussions. My girls also read the suggested scripture passages on their own, after we had finished the questions.

I really loved this high quality DVD series! Dave Stutts really makes this period in history come alive and opens up areas of the Holy Land. The series was also from more of a historical perspective, so families from different Christian denominations would all be comfortable watching this.

I was also excited to see that Drive Thru History® has other series including The Holy Land, American History, and Ancient History. We watched the preview for the American History one and I am adding that to our list of wants for curriculum for next year.

I don't know if our family will ever visit Israel, but watching this series, with the informative and interesting narration, was the next best thing.


Other Crew Members reviewed this great series, check out what they thought by clicking below.


The Gospels {Drive Thru History® Reviews}

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

{Homeschool Product Review} ~ SpeedyPrep

My kids are getting older! In two months our second born will graduate from high school. She has plans to attend a nearby junior college and so when the opportunity came up to review SpeedyPrep and their online CLEP prep program I was quite excited.


SpeedyPrep


What It Is:

If you are unfamiliar with CLEP testing, let me fill you in on this wonderful way to pass college classes. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program and is accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities. Basically, you study and take the exam to pass a lower division class (classes taken in the first two years, or at a junior college) and gain college credit. You do this at a test center, without taking the 12-18 week-long college course, or paying tuition fees. There is an $80 fee to take the test, but this is a much more efficient and inexpensive way to gain college credits.


SpeedyPrep



Now, how do you study for a CLEP exam? This is where SpeedyPrep helps out. SpeedyPrep walks students through a study program and gives them the information they need to pass the exam.

Currently there are 24 courses you can take on SpeedyPrep. These range from:
  • History - Government, US history I and II, Western Civilization I and II
  • Science - Biology, Human Developement, Natural Sciences
  • Literature - American Lit, English Lit, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • Math - College Level Math, Algebra
  • Business - Marketing, Management, Business Law
There is also a Spanish course, Sociology, Psychology, College Composition, and Humanities.


The way that the facts are primarily taught are through flashcards. Through trial and error, the student learns the necessary facts while answering the flashcards.

When answered incorrectly, the answers are given with an explanation, which my daughter really appreciated.






There are also videos to watch on each topic. The videos supplement the information from the flashcards and help to review the concepts. Sometimes the videos also have photos or artwork from the period to help teach the concept.








The flashcards are both fill in the blank and multiple choice, like the one seen below.





The student is asked the questions multiple times over the course of the program - the goal is mastery and not quick memorization.

Another bonus that my daughter loved was that you can see your progress through the material very easily on a progress bar.






How We Used This and What We Thought:

Bookworm is taking a couple of classes this semester at our local junior college as a high school student. She was really excited when I explained the whole CLEP concept to her, and looked through the list of courses. She chose US History I as her class to take. 

She logged onto SpeedyPrep 4-5 times a week, and spent between 30-60 minutes a day working through the questions. At times, she would watch a video on the topic she was on. 

The videos were of a teacher, not on screen, explaining the concept. The video was a blackboard, with the teacher highlighting events in history using words they wrote and various photos and drawings of the event.






The flashcards seemed to cover quite a bit of material, and would repeat often. She felt that this really helped her to retain the information, but did notice that the flashcards were always worded exactly the same. The questions were either fill in the blank or multiple choice, and spelling and capitalization mattered. This was good for some things, but she did notice a couple of times that something should have been capitalized and wasn't. If she forgot and entered it as a capital letter, she got the card wrong.

She also noticed a discrepancy when studying the articles of the Constitution - sometimes she was to enter a number {2}, other times the Roman numeral {II}, and still another flashcard wanted her to enter Second, as in the second amendment. This was a bit frustrating for her but she did do this section over and over and finally passed it to move on to the next. On a side note, she really struggled with the section on the Constitution, and needed that extra practice with all of the amendments!

As of this writing she is over halfway done with US History I and hopes to be ready to take the CLEP test by the end of June. I have looked into CLEP testing at our college - they do accept most classes and offer the test and charge the standard $80 to take it. So much less expensive than tuition and books at the same school!

Even with the difficulties she had, overall she said she really liked this way of studying. She felt that it was giving her the tools to take that final exam and pass a college level course - all without stepping into a classroom. Obviously you can only do lower division classes this way but what a great opportunity for independent learners to gain college credit, and in fraction of time and cost. 

If you have high school students, I urge you to look into CLEP testing, and using SpeedyPrep to help your older students pass the test.


Other Crew Members reviewed SpeedyPrep, click below to see what they thought.


College Level Examination Program Preparation {SpeedyPrep Reviews}


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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Week In Images

 My Week.....




It seems like we are seeing lots of this stuff. Yes, I am getting tired of it.....



but I know it is a blessing.








This amazing garlic bread......




it hit the spot with a hearty salad one night for dinner.








This girl.....


because she is growing up, and proves it by making dinner all by herself.








This incredible treat - mini blueberry cheesecakes with raspberry cream......




because having the oldest daughter create these makes me feel very spoiled.








These irises on my table......



because they are my favorite color.







These precious girls......


because they have been best friends from when they just started talking.








Sweet fellowship and yummy food......


because it nourishes my soul.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thoughts on Older Children: Let Them Fly

This is the part of our journey, when my kids were younger, that I thought I would really, really dread. I mean, I had thrown the last 20+ years of my life into these precious beings and now they were going to leave us, one by one.

And now that I am on the brink of those days I can say that while I am not necessarily dreading it, I am definitely seeing it through bittersweet eyes. I love being a mom, playing with my babies, reading aloud to them, and holding them when they are sick. I love conversations and games with the older ones, and seeing their interesting personalities come out as they matured.

But time moves on.






I need to not only let my older children fly, but help give them wings to do it. For some of my children, that means encouraging them to attend college. In the beginning of our parenting years my husband and I were influenced in some ways, by patriarchal teaching. At the time I thought that I would never have any of my daughters attend college. Thankfully we did not continue that pendulum swing, and have found a kind of middle ground. I now see that college can be used in different ways. The most obvious one is to gain a career, but for those not wanting a full-life career, just taking a few classes can be very valuable.

Bookworm has said that some of the classes she can take will help her become a better homeschooling mom. And with technology today, there are lots of options for our children. CLEP testing and online classes are quite prevalent and can be used very successfully.

College learning is not for everyone, as a couple of my children are showing us. Trade schools are also valuable places to learn and give great hands on skills. I also want my children to know how to cook (Mr. Lego too!) and how to clean house. (They have done chores since they can walk so this is not problem). I have also created a semester curriculum on childhood diseases and illnesses. I want them to be responsible parents and to be able to make wise decisions about their own babies.

And yes, I believe it is important for them to leave the home someday. For our son this might be sooner rather than later. And not because he is the oldest, but because both My Sweetie and I feel that it is important for young men to feel the responsibility of being on their own. We both feel strongly that this gives dignity to our sons and helps them along in life. That doesn't mean we are kicking any of these young people out - on the contrary, we have had many conversations as they have grown, and have encouraged them to spread their wings and fly from the nest.




My older children that are (and will) live with us after 18 still need to have responsibility. At this point in our parenting journey, we have come up with some things our older children must do to live at home. These include having a written budget, letting us know where they are and when they'll be back, and keeping their space clean and doing a couple of household chores a week.


Which leads to another thing that I am learning - Pick Your Battles, or in other words, Give Up Some Control.

My husband and I are learning to decide on those few places that we will not budge on and to stand by them. There are things that you should, and need to, require of those older children living in your home. Honestly? This short list should be able to be counted on one hand.

These people living in your house are adults. With brains all of their own. In lots of ways, in more ways that you think, they need to make their own decisions and plans.

For example, having them register for their college classes all on their own. Or,  having them make their own doctor appointments. Or decisions they make about what they do during their free time. For years as parents, we have made these choices and done these things for them. But we need to let go of this responsibility. Let them make choices. Let them lead and decide things. Knowing at times, they might fail at things, miss opportunities, and make poor decisions, which can be very hard  to watch indeed.

This is especially for us moms! These are our babies, that we have always had so much control over. We need to remember that they need to fly. And sometimes nudging them to fly can be hard. Some will eagerly stand on the edge of the nest and jump, while others really need a kick in the pants to get started.

Praying for wisdom during this time is so important. Knowing how and when to encourage them make their own decisions is different for each child and home. Thanks be to God that he already knows our plans and gives us wisdom, through our church, godly friends, and the Bible, to give guidance to our older children.




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Week In Images

My week....



This fresh ground whole wheat bread that I made this morning.....



because it has been a few months since I made my own bread and we have missed it.







This car of mine, that I have put all sorts of things in.......




because later that afternoon, you wouldn't have even known that there was a bale of alfalfa in there.








This cool turkey.......



watching us as we walked by on our morning walk.






Dasher and Fay, her lamb.......


because they are so darn cute together.








And this photo......



because Mr. Lego is home again.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

{Homeschool Review Crew} ~ Memoria Press

I was very excited when I was chosen to review some American history products from Memoria Press.

I received The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & Great Republic Set and 200 Questions About American History Set.


What It Is:


The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & Great Republic Set is meant for grades 5-8. This set comes with and is based on the book with the same title, written by H. A. Guerber. Originally published in 1899, this book has been edited by Memoria Press. It is age appropriate for 5-8th grades and begins with Native Americans and goes all through American history up until the Spanish American War in 1898. The book is divided into chapters, each on a different event. Each chapter is 1-2 pages long for a total of 85 chapters.


The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set

With this set you will also receive the Student Guide and Teacher Guide. The Student Guide is a consumable workbook. It matches the book - for every three chapters there is a 2 page workbook spread. Things that are covered are Facts to Know, Vocabulary, Comprehensive Questions, and Enrichment. The Enrichment suggestions include mapwork, timeline suggestions, and topics and ideas to research. The Teacher Guide mirrors the workbook and but also has the answers to all questions.





The 200 Questions About American History Set comes with both a Student Book and Teacher Guide. The title is self explanatory - this set lists 200 facts that every American should know. Who was the English sailor that discovered Cape Cod? The General that captured Quebec? Or the inventor of the cotton gin? These are the types of question-answer facts that are taught in this set. After using this set, your student will know 150 facts about history, be able to place 30 events on a timeline, know 20 quotes from famous Americans, and know all 45 Presidents. The Teacher Guide has a very helpful schedule in the front, that helps homeschooling moms use these two sets together. There are also 6 tests and a final, with the answer key in the back of the book.

200 Questions About American History Set
Grades 5-8



Included with this set is a lovely set of flashcards. There are three types of flashcards: first are the Drill Questions - these are based on the 150 fact questions. There are Notable Quotes, with the quote on one side and the person who said it on the back. And finally the Timeline Cards - these have a year on one side and the event on the other.






How We Used This and What We Thought:

I am really only actively teaching my younger two daughters this year. Dasher is the perfect age for this product and the one I primarily did this with. But every time we read, Nutsy was sitting there listening in. After all, these were very interesting stories! We would actually read three chapters at a time from H. A. Guerber's book. While I read, I would pause to ask questions and see if they were both retaining the story. The next day we would review what we had read and Dasher would do the workbook pages. I would also pull out all the flashcards we had learned up to that point and go over them.



I did find it hard sometimes to utilize the schedule they had provided - we were to read chapters 1-7 the first week but then each of the workbook pages covered three chapters. This would mean that when we read that 7th chapter, she would only do a third of a worksheet page. I ended up just following my own schedule of reading the material one day (3 chapters), doing the workbook the next, and flashcards all days.

I LOVED the flashcards. I would flip them and sometimes show the answer (Amerigo Vespucci) and they would need to tell me the fact that went with that person. (Explorer whom America is named after). In the 4 weeks we used this we only studied one event that got on the timeline (1492) but next week we will get to the French Indian War and that is another timeline card we can add. I do wish there were more timeline cards to use, looking through them, they go from 1492 to the Vietnam War. Like I said, the book by H. A. Guerber only goes up until 1898, so Memoria Press had reading suggestions from Story of the World that make up the reading assignments for the last third of the course.

I also really liked the Enrichment part of the Student Guide. The day we studied about Roanoke the composition suggestion was to write a journal entry from the point of John White, when he came back and could not find the colony. I also loved the mapwork, and would have really liked to have seen maps in an appendix that we could have used. But as a good homeschooling mom, I do have lots of maps so we used those.

Overall, I did really like this product. Doing this over the course of a year would give your students solid knowledge of American history. Our country actually has the immigrants that are applying for citizenship, study and take a history test and many of what they learn are these very facts and dates. It is the responsibility of every American citizen to know the basics of our wonderful country, and this product fits that description very well.


First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thoughts on Older Children: What Did We Expect?

Honestly, what did we expect?

There are lots of expectations we have for our dear children - how they will turn out, what they will do, and how they will act as adults.

This is one thing that I wish I had thought of when my kids were younger. Since I had put my everything into these little beings, all hours of the days and nights, raising, thinking and planning for these children, the obvious expected outcome is that they are going to turn out pretty darn good.

I became aware that this thinking is incorrect, in a very humbling way.

For years, I expected my kids to mature to the point where they would not fight with each other. I thought this way because when kids are little, their fights are really dumb. They were most likely fighting over a toy, someone getting more cookie than the other, a sassy statement, or a rolling of the eyes. There were times when I would just throw up my hands and say, "Just don't fight and argue! Stop it!"

I really expected them at some point, to pretty much stop fighting and disagreeing with each other.

{During a time when they were getting along nicely}



One day I realized that this was the wrong perspective. It happened on a day when of course, two children had another dumb fight. Then that night, my Sweetie and I had a disagreement. About something really dumb, like the tone one of us had used when talking. I realized, when reflecting that evening, that there was not one bit of difference in both of the fights that happened that day.

I realized that instead of teaching my children not to disagree, I need to teach them how to disagree correctly. Someday they might move in with roommates, get married, have children, and have relationship with lots of people. And they will have disagreements. Because they are sinners.

We all need the skills to calmly discuss issues as they arise. To overlook small things that might annoy us about others, things that really don't need to be mentioned. To take a break when a fight is getting heated and beginning to get nasty. (This is something that we have all been working on in our family. To recognize when things are going to get out of control and to ask for a break. And then to take that time and think and pray about reconciliation. I cannot tell you how this has helped the arguments in our home!)

To approach the other party with humility, in Christ. And when I say "in Christ", I am meaning with the mindset that all of us are equal as sinners, and all deserve God's curse and wrath. But then remembering that Christ not only took my place but also gave me his eternal reward.

Instead of trying to teach my children not to fight, I want to and I need to remember, to give them these tools.


{Another happy photo}



We need to not expect our children to never lie, to never lose their temper, and to always keep their rooms clean. I look at myself and I struggle with all of those things, and I am 42 years old! Parenting is full of discipline and wise council, but it is also very full of grace. God's grace, which we all are in such need of.

"Admit it, we're all still a bit of a mess; that's why we need God's 
grace today as much as we needed it the first day we believed."
{Paul David Tripp - New Morning Mercies}


And then this scary thought hit me: my older kids might not turn out like I wanted at all. They might (heaven forbid) make wrong choices. They might actually make some very bad choices. I need to, in some ways, expect this. After all, when we examine, deep down, the way we thought when we were that age and then honestly think about how we act now at times, we still make poor decisions. And learn (sometimes) from them.

God is working on us and sanctifying us. He is working on our children and thanks be to God, sanctifying them too. We need to remember this and have faith, that his plan is perfect. We also need to remember to pray for our older children. They need that very much, too.

Each day our goal should be to live in peace, hope, and courage, not looking at all of the things that are going on inside or around us. We have faith because we are forgiven, and because we are blessed because Christ lives in us.

And we do have peace, because ultimately we know, in faith, that he is working through ALL THE THINGS that are going on with our older children.




Friday, March 24, 2017

Thoughts on Older Children Part 1: Communication is Huge

For weeks now I've been thinking about writing about older children. I've got a few of them, and life has been quite interesting as they get older. So this last week while nursing a bad head cold, I spent some time writing. I have four topics that I'll turn into a 4 part series, which I'll post here on my blog.

I have a couple of reasons for writing this:

First, this is written to me. I have been jotting down these thoughts and some of the quotes I have read, and needed a place where I could easily reread them and be encouraged.

Second, I know that all moms are going to hit this stage in life. I am no expert (far from it) but thought I would share my humble thoughts.

Also, in these posts you won't get any juicy information about my older kids. In fact, I am referring to them all collectively, so as to keep them anonymous. On a side note, I have many times in the last couple of years, wanted to either blog or put on Facebook, things that are going on with my older kids. Mostly all trivial, fun things, nothing serious at all. But a couple of years ago one of my offspring told me that they resented at times, things I shared about them with others. I realized that I am actually invading their privacy, not only when I post things online, but also do what all moms do when they get together: talk about their kids. Now some of these conversations are profitable, and are sisters-in-the-trenches kind of talks, that are private and meant to encourage. But I am trying to be more careful, both in my personal conversations and on social media, what I share about my kids.

Now, my thoughts.....



Communication is Huge

This is something that my mom did with me as a teen, even though I didn't really realize it until years later. I look back and remembered that I shared lots of private things with her, and she was able to advise me. That doesn't mean that I always took her advice or that her advice was always the best, but we did have many deep conversations.

Why didn't I notice this relationship until later? Because she started conversations about normal every day things with me, every day. Talking with her was a normal thing. So when deeper things did come up, it was not a big deal that we were talking about it. There were things I did not share with her, things that she will never know about. But I did confide some things to her and see now that it gave depth to our relationship.

But if we don't talk at all to our kids, there is not progress. Think about it, how do we expect to have deep conversations with our children if we can't talk about small things with them? And did you notice that I used the word communication and not just talk? That's because sometimes, actual talking is hard. I have noticed this with one of my kids, and we actually have deeper text messages than verbal conversations. I have made a point to text this particular child each day, to encourage and keep that communication line open.





It's work, communicating with our children. I have a list of things to do a mile long each day, and sometimes my kids just don't feel like talking. Some days I realize that the only communication we have had was my giving instructions or reprimanding. Many times it is me telling them how they could have re phrased that sentence a little less sarcastically or for the fourteenth time that their room is messy. But then I am reminded that I don't particularly like being with someone where our only communication is instruction.




Please don't read into this and think that I am saying that you should become best bosom buddies with your older children, never remind them to do their chores and always compliment them. But I do want to encourage you to have just a couple of conversations about something, anything, during the day. Sports, animals, a movie you all saw recently, their plans for the day. Keeping those important lines of communication open.

Each week I don't communicate enough, so I am writing this to myself as well. By God's grace may we as moms deepen our relationships with our older kids by simply asking how their day went.



**An Addendum: My sweet step mom read this post above and had just seen this very good article, on creative ways to start conversations with your children. Check it out.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Week In Images

 My week......



This note that Nutsy left on Dad's lunch......


because she loves him.






This blossom......




because spring is coming.







This first place girl.....



because it was a job very well done.







This beautiful walk......


because the weather is getting warmer.






This wildflower......



because I am thankful for simple beauty.






And this crazy girl.......


because she is a nut, but I love her.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Homeschool Co-op 2016-17

I was looking back through my blog posts and realized that I have never blogged about our co-op this year.

It is the smallest it has ever been, with only 6 children. Only Nutsy and Dasher are in it this year - Bookworm is finishing up high school and also took a total of three college classes over two semesters.



This year, my friend taught through Apologia's Exploring Creation Through Astronomy.

Each week the kids fill in their notebooks and read the text.



Then when we get together weekly, they do fun experiments.


Here they were showing how a solar eclipse works.





Making volcanoes, since there are volcanoes on Mars.




Here they were making clouds to show what the gas planets are like.





And just this last week they made ice cream, using ziploc bags. This was in honor of Neptune, the coldest planet.



We split our year into two 12-week sections. The first 12 weeks I taught a unit study from Homeschool in the Woods on Elections. This was perfect timing, since we were going through our own Presidential elections.


Here, we marked all of the states after the election.





The second half of our co-op year, my friend did a unit study on The Constitution.





Each week she would talk about a different aspect and then they would complete components of their lapbook. She did supplement and added things that they are currently learning about the Bill of Rights.




I spent the whole year teaching both grammar and writing.

For grammar we finished up level one of IEW's Fix It Grammar, and halfway through, began book 2.

In writing we focused on the second half of IEW Student Writing Intensive Level B. We really worked on 5 paragraph essays, perfecting topic and clincher sentences, and having solid introductions and conclusions. When appropriate, I would assign them essays on signers of the constitution, or the presidential candidates, so that it combined what they were learning in their other classes.



And in just a few short weeks, we will be done with co-op for this year! We do plan on continuing this next year. So far we haven't done too much planning, but I plan to finish up the Fix It Grammar Level 2 and than I am looking into taking a break from SWI and doing History-Based writing lessons. We will most likely add something science that my friend will teach, and then each of us will choose an elective type subject to teach each semester.

I am very thankful for our co-op and the discipline and opportunities it gives our family!