Thursday, March 28, 2019

Poetry & Short Stories: American Literature Set -- my REVIEW

This year, my two homeschooled children are learning about US History and we are thinking about them preparing to take a CLEP test on the subject.  We were looking at the different CLEP test options and thought that American Literature might be a great one to strive for as well.  In that vein, we were very excited to be able to try out this curriculum: Poetry & Short Stories: American Literature Set by Memoria Press.  We have used products by Memoria Press before and have found them to be very high quality and very learner-friendly and easy to use.

See the book on the right? The green book? This is where the readings are found.  I loved that we didn't have to find or purchase separately the short stories and poems which are used in this course. They are all here in this slim book.  This course covers a range of American Authors, including
Washington Irving
Edgar Allen Poe
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Sidney Lanier
James Russell Lowell
Richard Hovey
Ernest Lawrence Thayer
John Greenleaf Whittier
Emily Dickinson
Carl Sandburg
O. Henry
Amy Lowell
Robert Frost
(and then some British poets as well in the appendix)

Chosen selections of each of those authors are included in the student book. The student workbook (the middle book in the above picture) begins with an instruction of how to mark important parts of readings--and why to do so.  I really like this focus, it is definitely a skill that crosses discipline boundaries and can be used for many different types of readings (reading textbooks, readings on standardized tests, reading your Bible, and more!)

After a brief overview/introduction to American Literature, the student workbook guides the student through a chapter for each piece of literature.  This curriculum is a part of a classical education program, and the titles of the sections of each chapter reflect that:  Pre-grammar|Preparation, Grammar|Presentation, Logic|Dialectic, and Rhetoric|Expression.  [[[[Don't let that confuse you -- we do not particularly use a classical approach to education, but we LOVE this curriculum and incorporate it with the eclectic mix of curricula that we use.]]]]

The first section (Pre-grammar|Preparation) sets the student up for thinking in the mindset of the story/poem that they will be reading.  Several leading questions invite the student to think about a few topics--for example, before reading James Russell Lowell's The Heritage, students are asked to answer "What are some advantages and disadvantages of having wealth?" "What are some advantages and disadvantages of having just enough to get by?" "Does death care whether one has money or not?" Thinking about these topics enough to answer those questions prepares the student to read Lowell's poem in a way that it will resonate more with them than if they were just jumping into it blindly and thinking about those things afterward.  

Section two, Grammar|Presentation, varies according to the story/poem selection.  This section gives the student background information, clarifies vocabulary which may be challenging, and introduces the student to literary terminology and how it is used in that instance.

The next part of section two (Grammar|Presentation) is a set of comprehension questions to be answered after the student has read (and marked) the selection.  This is a good check of comprehension (and as a side note, two of my children are using this curriculum concurrently. It is very interesting to see how each answers the questions--mostly the same, but slight variations--different things stick out to each of them.)

Following this comes section three: Logic|Dialectic.  This part of the process helps the student through the interpretive process, understanding the main idea(s) and different literary devices which have been utilized.  

The fourth section, Rhetoric|Expression is where the student really pinpoints the "Central One Idea" -- summarizing the selection, honing in on the main idea, and supporting their choice of that main idea.  The student needs to think about what they have read and written thus far to really form their own conclusions rather than just reading someone else's descriptions.

At the end of each of the lessons there is a prompt for an optional essay, which you may have your student do if you like!

There is also a Teacher Guide which allows the parent/teacher to easily facilitate this class.

How did we use the materials? We actually purchased a second set so that both of our homeschooled highschoolers can utilize this course. I REALLY like this program, and both of them will use it in its entirety.  It is easy for the student to go through the lessons--it is very clear what they are to do when--so they don't need me to direct their movement through the chapters.  We do go over the answers and chat a little about the readings and the main points, literary terms, etc. The kids actually like this program as well--and it's very helpful for their understanding of this genre of American Literature (and helpful to learn how to read/interpret literature in general as well).  

I highly recommend this course.  I am, once again, very impressed with the materials produced by Memoria Press and suggest that you look into their Poetry and Short Stories: American Literature Set.    They actually have many different literature curricula (a few examples are Poetry, Prose, & Drama Book One: The Old English & Medieval Periods Set,  Poetry Book Three: The Romantic to the Victorian Age Set, and more!) They also offer a full Latin curricula, phonics and reading programs, and more! 

Please click on the link below to read what others thought of these (and more!) Memoria Press offerings!

Phonics, Poetry & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019


When you read books or articles, do errors in grammar or punctuation drive you crazy? They certainly jump out at me :) Yes, I have made my share of errors, so I understand how it happens...but here's my tip for the day--before you share a presentation, complete an article, or print a banner--get another set of eyes to check it out!  It'll save you frustration and maybe even some money!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Drive Thru History® "Acts to Revelation" -- my REVIEW

Our family has enjoyed Drive Thru History® videos in the past--so the kids were happy when this new edition came out and we were given the opportunity to view them for the purposes of review. This set of Drive Thru History videos is called Drive Thru History® "Acts to Revelation" and it covers the next parts of the New Testament which weren't covered in a previous set of DVDs The Gospel.  

Have you seen any of these videos before? Maybe in a Sunday School class or youth group setting? These are actually great tools to use in a homeschool setting as well--especially with the accompanying study guide which comes with each set of DVDs.  I'd bet that many of you are familiar with this series, but in case you're not, here's a little explanation!

Funny host
Educated host
Educational host
Awesome vehicles (and a sailboat!)
Geographical terms
Scripture explained
Scripture illustrated
Scriptural enlightenments
Corny jokes :) 

Haha! Seriously :) Want a little more explanation? Well...there's this guy named Dave Stotts, who explores an area of the world, explains about it, teaches some of the history of the area, and throws in a few jokes and interesting trivia (oh, and some dance moves! -- see episode 16 if you didn't catch those).

This series of videos is entitled  Drive Thru History® "Acts to Revelation" and Dave visits many different locations which are featured in the New Testament of the Bible (beyond the Gospels).  He visits many different locations which, if you have read the Bible much, might sound very familiar to you.  There are locations like Patmos, Rome, Cyprus, Turkey, and more.  Dave visits an area and talks to the viewer about what it looks like now (full of great scenes of the middle east), what it looked like in the first centuries AD (models/reconstructions of what it may have looked like a couple of thousand years ago), archaeological finds (many of which he ties in to "proofs" or illustrations of things that are mentioned in the New Testament), what was happening there in the times of Paul and the early Christian church (Nero, prisoners on Patmos, the Jerusalem Council, Roman power, cruelty, and more).  The places which he highlights are those which are settings for New Testament writings or experiences (he explores the cave in which John is said to have had his visions in which are recorded in Revelation!). Extrabiblical theories, historical writings, and other suggestions are explored and encouraged or debated. Scripture is quoted, explained, and often personalized.  

Sounds pretty educational, doesn't it? Well, to enhance that educational aspect, there is a study guide which is included with the DVDs (and by included with--I mean it's actually built into the DVD case, which is brilliant--unless you lose the DVDs you will not misplace this guide!) The study guide has a summary of each lesson, artwork/photos from the lesson, discussion questions (the answers are in the back!), "side roads" which are little extra information with a verse that works into the lesson, and references of related Bible passages to check out.  

I did say it is educational, right? Well, don't let that deceive you!  My kids (teenagers--14 and 16) enjoy this series and frankly are just watching them for "fun" -- they find them entertaining and interesting.  Hey, I'm not going to discourage that!  Actually they were so interested in them that they got my husband watching them and he wants to watch the whole series as well. 

So yes, they are great lessons from an educational viewpoint, and even just for fun (really!) but do you know what I think is one of the greatest things that one will get out of this series rive Thru History® "Acts to Revelation" ?  When you are familiar with the physical/geographical settings and cognizant of what was going on historically at the time periods of the early church, it really enhances your Bible reading and even your ability to pay attention and learn more from sermons and lessons.  Think about are are reading a Scripture passage and come across a reference to Patmos.  If you have watched the lesson on John at Patmos, you will know about that volcanic island (and maybe chuckle as you remember some of the volcano jokes!) and the prisoner colony and the reason John was there and more! This will flash back to you and you will have this background understanding as you listen to the message which the preacher is sharing with the congregation. You will be more personally involved and may find a fuller understanding.  

We enjoy this DVD series (oh, did I mention that there are three DVDs, containing eighteen episodes in all) and think that you would as well.  It's beautifully professionally done and I highly recommend it. (Oh, you know what else I forgot to mention? He also points people toward the Bible (at the end of the episode it reminds folks that even though this is good information, it is no substitute for reading the Scripture itself).  So...give them a try! You might find a new favorite series!

To read what others say about this product, please click on the link below:

Drive Thru History®

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Martha (sister of Lazarus)

Ahh Martha, such an illustration in sermons about someone who loved Jesus but focused on other things at the wrong time...

Anyhow--in yesterday's sermon I learned a lesson about myself through looking at Martha at the time of her brother Lazarus's death.  Earlier in the chapter (John 11) she has definitively stated her belief in Jesus: 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
But now, when Jesus tells them to roll away the stone, her response is "but Lord, it has been 4 days, by now there will be a stench!"
She believed, yes, but at times her actions/responses did not match that stated belief. 
Hmmm--am I ever like that? YES -- sadly, quite a bit of the time.  I know in my heart and head that God is in charge, all powerful, and on my side...yet I still worry. I give up hope. I forget to trust and forge ahead on my own.  
This passage is a good reminder to live out the beliefs. In the face of what we might find impossible, we need to remember the One in whom our faith resides.  

Hey, today's verse of the day runs right along this theme...

Romans 15:13

New International Version

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Victus Study Skills System -- my REVIEW

Are you good at studying? Have you worked with your students to improve their study skills? I think that somehow I innately knew how to study effectively and was surprised when my kids did not prepare or learn in the same way that I did, so over the years I have given lots of studying  and test-taking "tips" from my own personal experiences.  This past month, we have had the opportunity to try out (and review) a 30-year old study skills program called the Victus Study Skills System . This program has several levels, from primary grades all the way up through the college aged learners.  We used the student workbook for grades 5/6-10/11, which is Level 3.

This study skill system encompasses a pool at this middle/high school  level. It begins by motivating students to learn and utilize study skills by having them create a mission statement for their life, as well as envisioning where they want to be in the future.

They go through exercises that help them identify priorities and see how they are concretely fitting in with their stated priorities.   Along with this is a semester goal setting chart, sections where they can write out goals, objectives,  and an action plan for fulfilling those objectives.

Another section allows the student to evaluate their preferred learning style.   Through answering a series of statements,  the student discovers if they are a more visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.  Once they have identified their best style, tips are given as to how to maximize study accordingly. 

Time management is another area of learning,  with weekly/monthly/semester plots/schedules for the student to use (hopefully to reduce cramming!) as well as tips for how to stay organized and the necessity of a study environment that will enhance learning.  

A system with the mnemonic PQRST teaches students how to get much more out of their reading and tips for enhanced listening/interaction are given. 

There is a section that teaches note-taking efficiency and effectiveness.  Students realize the disparity between the number of words spoken in a minute and the number of words that can be written in a minute! Good hints, such as abbreviating, formatting,  and revising are shared. 

The study wraps up with test-taking skills--how to successfully prepare for a test, how to mentally prepare for a test, and then some concrete test-taking tips--things such as "read directions carefully " and "There are usually more true answers than false answers, so if you must guess, guess true."

The way the lessons are delivered is a discussion type lesson, with the teacher's parts clearly laid out in the teacher edition.  It is easy to go through and talk about topics and then the student has a page of fill in the blanks to cover that section.  The student workbook is nicely laid out, spiral bound, lays flat and is easy to write in. 

So--how did we like this System? For the most part, we liked it.  It covers a lot of important topics and it is just ten shortish lessons. It is easy to administer/facilitate and easy for the student to follow along. It IS a very short program, hopefully long enough to be impactful to the student.  We especially liked the learning about the student's  best mechanisms for learning  (my older daughter who is home from college wanted to give it a try too!)  as well as the test-taking tips. I kind of think that this falls into the category of how sometimes things that you have already taught your child are more impactful when the same information comes from someone else :)

If you would like to read others' thoughts on this system, please click on the link below!

K through College Study Skills {Victus Study Skills System Reviews}

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Do your homeschooled children do a lot of research? I am not talking about googling to find information about their latest interests (or for my son, looking up youtube videos of Tim Hawkins haha!)

No, I am talking about researching a topic for scholarly purposes.

I am afraid that many of our students have fallen into the easy pattern of just using Google to look up information--hopefully from a credible source--and stopping there.

There are so many other sources of information-gathering to which it would be good to introduce our students.

Do you know about Google Scholar? Type that into your browser and you'll have access to a vast array of studies and articles.  You may not have access to all of them, but your local or university library might grant you access.

Oh yes, and how about BOOKS? ;) oh yes, those are still used and full of great information! We have several colleges/universities near us  and their libraries have searchable databases. You can search your topic, make a list of books you'd like to peruse, and head for the library for a few hours of research.

Your local library probably has access to more books than their own holdings  as well, and your librarian ought to be happy to help you acquire those you need.

Don't get me wrong, the internet and articles, etc that are online  are certainly helpful and a quick way to get information,  but other sources can provide valuable information  as well.  Don't get lazy and forget about them!