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Friday, July 27, 2012

No Nonsense Algebra

In life, I am kind of a "no nonsense" kind of gal.  Not in the "you can't be silly" kind of way, but in a "let's just get to the bottom line"  kind of way.

Which is exactly what No Nonsense Algebra, from Math Essentials is all about.

The lesson are short and to the point.  They ask that you only spend 20 minutes a day working through the lesson.

That is super easy during regular school time, a little bit tougher when you are officially on summer break.

But, I did make D-man cooperate with this.  I won't reveal my methods.

We got the No Nonsense Algebra textbook to use, but a bonus is that you also get a code to use for watching on-line video tutorials. 

The video tutorials move quickly, so you may need to hit your pause button to give yourself a minute to think.  But, that is the whole nonsense.

Like I said, I really am a "No Nonsense" kind of person.  I like people to just get to the point.  I am not good in meetings because there is too much....talking going on....and not about the thing we are supposed to be there talking about.  When my kids ask for things, I hate it when they talk around in circles trying to get me to come out and say what they apparently are too afraid to ask!  Just spit it out!

These lessons are right up my alley.  They really get straight to the point.  Yes, I had to pause a few times and think, but they didn't give me extra stuff to cloud up my mind.  (I have enough of that extra stuff flying around in there on my own without them adding more math to it!)

There is a "How To Use This Book" section that says the usual stuff....but the most important tip from the author is:

Copy each example on a piece of paper.  Then, read and copy each of the steps. (emphasis mine)

I know.  That will illicit more groans and moans from your kids.  But, the author assures me it will be worth it.

How do you actually work through a lesson? 

You start with the video for each lesson.  Then you read everything that is on the lesson page (each lesson is really only one or two pages long - don't worry), then you work through the examples (yes, I said work through them, don't just read them), then you move onto the work the exercises on your own, then you review. 

The author, Rick Fisher, makes the comparison of an athlete or musician who has to practice to be able to be good.  (I have never thought about "getting" math in the same way I do about piano lessons....honestly, I have been more of a "get it over with" kind of gal.)

There is an answer section at the back of the book.  But, instead of just marking things wrong, they want you to rework the problems so you can see where you went wrong.  After you do this, you are ready to move on to the next lesson.

I know, it sounds like a lot....but it really didn't take that long to complete a whole is really just about 20 minutes or so (depending on how long you pause)

D-man  said that he liked that the lessons got straight to the point and he could just get on with it.  He didn't really love the lecturer's voice in the video.  But, Rainman and I told him that was just another way to prepare him for college.  Not all of his professors would have the sweet sounding voice of his mother.

You can use this as a supplement to your algebra curriculum, but it is really designed to be a concise curriculum all on its own. 

We are planning to use it as a general Algebra review before moving D-man onto higher math.  We feel comfortable that this will catch anything that our teaching may have missed. So, when  he completes No Nonsense Algebra successfully, we are confident he can move on without issues.

Once A-girl gets to Algebra, we plan to use this as her actual curriculum.  It is much better than the hodge podge algebra that D-man got from us! 

You can get No-Nonsense Algebra for $27.95 which includes access to the video lessons.  Right now, if you order, it comes with a free A+ Math kit (valued at $4.99).  (Trust me when I say that this is really cheap for a complete math curriculum.  Really cheap.)

Here is a little added incentive to give this program a try.....even for you "non-math" types (like me)

Use Rick Fisher's Mastering Essential Math Skills for 20 minutes a day as directed. If you don't see what you feel are dramatically improved math test scores, send us a note saying so. You'll receive a prompt, complete refund - no questions asked!

Did you get that?  A refund.  No questions asked. 

We also got to pick a bonus book from the Mastering Essential Math Skills set to try out.  I picked Problem Solving

Really, word problems have been a problem for me since the 1st grade.  My head gets all wrapped up in the wrong information and, just goes downhill from there....on a train.......traveling from Newark to Chicago at 65 mph.....

Seriously, I still panic a little bit inside when the kids ask me for help with their word problems.  One of my Review Crew friends said she worked through this book for herself and.....she gets it.  She really gets it!

Maybe there is hope for me.  I will let you know how I do.....

.....after I try to earn $45 this week so I can use one-third of my earnings to buy 30 pounds of candy that I will then give three-fifths of to Hank, my neighbor, who is paid $12 an hour. 

How much candy and money will I have left?

Will I have enough to buy another Mastering Essential Math Skills book which costs, $11.95?

Smile with tongue
Read what other members of the Review Crew thought about there Math Essentials products.

Disclaimer:  We received copies of No Nonsense Algebra and Problem Solving for free in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These....

I always get up before my kids.  It is my time of the day to just be alone.  It is when I read e-mails, write blog posts, check Pinterest....and hopefully, when I do my devotions.

I drink coffee.

I make witty remarks on other people's blogs.

I usually check on the kids before I head downstairs and, sometimes what I find just cracks me up.

Especially during the summer, because we don't have too many rules about bedtimes....or even where people sleep.  There are a lot of impromptu sleep overs in other kid's rooms.

Can you see that V-girl has her hand over L-girl's face and her feet on A-girl (one looks like it is ready to shove her off).

This is A-man and S-girl on the floor by my bed.  No room with the other girls and D-man had stayed up late playing MLB 2K12 on the A-man didn't want to be alone in his room.

I don't know why this next one struck me as so funny....but it did.

The big man sized foot, with knuckle toes, that D-man now possesses with the girly decorations in the background.....

Sometimes I am not quite as stealthy as I think I am and little people wake up and think they are ready for the day.  So, they come downstairs with me....ready to hit the ground running....

....and, go right back to sleep!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm The Map, I'm the Map....I'M THE MAP!

Are you singing along to Dora in your head now?  Just in case you aren't.....or if your kids are too old to watch, so you have no idea what I am talking about....

If there's a place you gotta go....I'm the one you need to know....If there's a place you gotta get....I can get you there, I bet....

We love to travel.

We love maps.

We use a huge trucker atlas when we travel....even though we also have a GPS....we don't always trust that new fangled technology, you know.

We do a lot of geography related Sporcle quizzes.

I even decorated our dining room with maps when we first moved into our house because the colors were pretty.  It also helped with school lessons or when we were planning vacations around the dinner table.

The one problem we seemed to have with maps is when it came to lesson time and putting together map quizzes for the kids.

Especially if we were studying something that wasn't necessarily included in our actual curriculum.  Even something like a State capital quiz.

We would end up searching and searching the internet, trying to find that perfect map that showed just what we needed it to.  Usually we still ended up whiting out certain things or adding our stuff onto them.  Of course we never remembered to keep a master copy so when the next kid in line covered the same material....the search started all over again.

So, this review product, from Knowledge Quest called Map Trek was something we were really interested in trying out.

Their whole idea is that history will make sense if you use timelines AND, the right maps for the time.

I think Rainman was the most excited to find this product.....because, honestly, he is the one that spends most of the time searching on-line for just the right map.

This has just about every map imaginable available to you.

This set includes 4 world (ancient, medieval, new world, and modern) and 2 US maps

You know when you are doing some history lessons and you say...."Well....the country isn't called that anymore....or that country used to be part of ________________, but, um, I think it is called ___________ now...but I'm not really sure...."

They have maps from different time periods that show the borders and areas as they were you can compare them to now.  Or, like the example below what was happening in Europe between 1919 and 1939.

You could use the Map Trek maps as their own geography lesson, but they work really well with some of the homeschooling curriculum that is out there.  For some curriculum they even provide a free "curriculum integration guide"  We used the Map Tek maps with our Sonlight US History program.

The map below shows just where Charlemagne's empire was and which countries it covered.

We just used the US maps this summer, but I can already imagine the possibilities during the school year.  Like when we are working on British Literature...we can take a look at the world during Shakespeare's time compared to Emily Bronte, or even to J.K. Rowling.

The lesson plans that accompany the maps are broken down by age you aren't asking Kindergartners to label their maps with a lot of detail.  Here is the example of how it is laid out for the Voyage of Christopher Columbus

Level A – Grades 1-4 (with parental assistance as necessary)

Label the cities of Lisbon in Portugal and Palos in Spain.

Label these continents – North America, South America, Europe and Africa.

Color your map

Levels B and C – Grades 5-12
Complete all of the above, plus
Draw in the route of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage in 1492. Using an

encyclopedia or Google search, research the routes taken on his other three

Label San Salvador, Cuba, Hispaniola and the Canary Islands

All in all, this is awesome product that will save Rainman countless time and will save me from countless headaches because I have to listen to him complain about not being able to find what we need. 

I am excited that we will have these maps ready to go for everything that we are working with in history for all the kids.  Especially the ones that correlate with our existing history and geography curriculum.  But, also for the other map stuff that may will need, like what Palestine looked like at the time of Christ (30 AD). 

You never know when you will need to know about the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Crusades (1095-1204). Right?

We just printed off the maps as we needed them.  They purposely made the maps with light ink colors, so it won't cost you an arm and a leg to print them off. 

You can get the Map Trek complete six e-book set for $47. They also have a hardcover atlas that comes with CD for $55

Go to Knowledge Quest's webpage and you can get a free e-book called Globalmania - How to Master World Geography in 7 Months or Less. 

If you still aren't sure about these maps and what they can do for you at home, you can download a 47 page sampler pack from Knowledge Quest. 

If there's a place you gotta go....I'm the one you need to know....If there's a place you gotta get....I can get you there, I long as I use Map Trek....  :)

See what other Review Crew members thought of Map Trek. 

Disclaimer:  I received the complete six e-book set from Map Trek for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Typing 101 with Mr. Fleming.

I still call it typing.  I know.    I am showing my age.

I took typing in high school with the scary, intimidating, Mr. Fleming. 

He would sort of stealthily troll the aisles and then bark out commands....or let everyone know who horrible you were doing.

And, I was horrible.  Truly horrible.

Which broke my mom's heart....(okay, she probably didn't feel that strongly about it).....but,  she was a really fast typist and had worked as a secretary, at the University of Minnesota, before she started having babies.  After she had babies, she took on typing work from home to supplement my dad's income.

She would always say what a valuable skill it was to have.

My sister, Karen, unlike me,  was a fabulous typist (Mr. Fleming loved her - really all her former teachers loved her - ask me if I have issues with that?  :)  Actually, I don't.....but it did get a little old hearing the "You're Karen's sister?  Well, then I expect great things out of you!") 

Karen was also a shorthand champ.....literally.  She even went to San Antonio, Texas to compete at the National Deca competition.  I can't remember how she did....but I am pretty sure she placed in her events.  (I know....who knew that had such competitions?)  Even with that stellar background in the secretarial fields....she actually went on to become an electronics technician....not a secretary.

Enough about Karen....back to me now.  

Fast forward a few years and I ended up taking typing in college.  I was a bit better....but, really, still not  a stellar typist.

Fast forward a few more years and I had gotten a summer job as a junior secretary for a friend of my mom's from her University of Minnesota days.

Lo and behold, when I was typing everyday....I got better and better.....faster and faster....and more and more accurate.  In those days, we used carbon even those were clean when I finished my tasks! We moved on from actual typewriters to computers ( I was even in charge of reading the manual and teaching the other office members how this new fangled contraption would work)

Fast forward a bit more and I started having babies and took on typing work from home for extra money.....just like my mom.

Fast forward a few more and I was working as a Recording Secretary (sort of like a court reporter but without murder trials and things) for cities and businesses all around the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.

I am a really good typist. I am still really fast.  I am still very accurate. 

I still haven't found anyone here in Georgia that will give me a chance to earn a little extra money....but, it is a skill I will always, who knows....

Once again, my mom was right.  Typing is a really valuable skill to have.

So, watching my kids hunt and peck on the computer keyboard drives me a little crazy.  I love to freak them out and type while I talk to them and look right at them, not the keyboard.....or the monitor.  Looking at their creeped out, astonished little faces doesn't get old.

My hope is that someday they will be able to freak out their own kids and do the same thing.

Christian Keyboarding  is a way to get them started on that path....without a scary Mr. Fleming!

It is a basic typing curriculum that uses Bible verses for inspiration and also for typing practice. 

Is it always exciting?  No. Is it super fun and colorful?  No.  Are there bells and whistles and catchy tunes?  No.

Is something that everyone will need and you should muscle through and learn the right way? Yes.

The days of people who say that the have no time for computers or learning how to type are long gone.  You need to have this basic skill to every career field that exists.

Since we don't have a fancy reader device, I just printed the pages as we went along...if we hadn't been low on colored ink, I probably would have printed the whole thing and put it in a 3 ring binder so I would just have it on my shelf.  I will print the rest as we go and just add them, so eventually I will have the whole book at our fingertips.

The lessons are short and don't take much time.  They start out with teaching basic typing skills, including your posture while you type.  By the end, when you have the QWERTY keyboard stuff down, they teach you some other useful stuff like centering and lists.

The version we used for Elementary students ages K-5th grade is available for $12.95 for the PDF version of the book.  Or you can have them print the book for you and it would be $45 which includes shipping and handling.

FYI - I wish we had gotten the large print edition....some of the print in the lessons is a little sort of ruins the good posture while typing thing if you are hunched over trying to see the little letters on the page. 

The version for older students 6th grade and up is called Keyboarding for the Christian School and the PDF version is $15.95. 

She has a few package deals available on her website where you get both the Keyboarding for the Christian School, Revised Edition and the Elementary Edition for only $22

Or, one specifically with homeschoolers in mind where you get  Keyboarding for the Christian School, Teacher Tools, and lessons Romans Road Enumeration and Columns (2003 and 2007), for $27.

The creator of these keyboarding programs, Leann Bietel, has graciously offered any of my readers a discount off her already good prices.  You can get 20% off, just enter the code:


But, it will expire August 29th, 2012

Trust me when I say that this method of learning to type is a lot better than what I went through with Mr. Fleming.  I try not to sneak up on my students and scare them while they are working!  I am nice that way!

See what other members of the TOS Review Crew thought.

Disclaimer:  I received a free PDF copy of Keyboarding for the Christian School in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hair and Dress Up

I have been working on seemingly endless projects around here.  (I will update you soon....although I have forgotten to take some of my before pictures....which doesn't make it nearly as exciting as it actually is when you see the difference between the two!) When I am not forcing the kids to be my assistants....they have been filling their time by playing dress up and fixing each other's hair....and giving themselves tattoos.

A lady can never have enough bags.....can she?

A little closer....

Some hair dos for you....

Photo bomb courtesy of L-girl

(Half French braid....half fish tail braid)

Our friend, E-girl fixed V-girl's hair for her.

All she needs is a little bone to be Pebbles.

A-man decided he wanted to be a football he took some scotch tape and added crayon lines....

Then S-girl decided she needed to be in on the fun too....and NOT as a cheerleader.

You can't really see hers....but she copied A-man.

And, finally.....a sign of things to come???

Although he said he didn't want people to see that it said, "I heart VBS".  We pretended that it actually said, "I heart Mom".

Who Is My Neighbor?

Honestly, I hardly know my neighbors here in Georgia....

To be honest, I didn't really know my neighbors in Minnesota either. 

Maybe it is because I grew up in the country and we really didn't have "real" neighbors.  I never learned how to be friendly, in that taking out the garbage or waving while you get the newspaper, kind of way.  It still sort of feels weird to me that people know when I leave and what I wear when I take out the garbage.  (By the way, in case you were doesn't look pretty.....)

We are reviewing a book about "neighbors".  This book addresses the fact that your "neighbors" aren't just the people who live right next to you.

This book is the third in the series from Apologia, is called Who Is My Neighbor? (And Why Does He Need Me?)

The first two books in the What We Believe series are:

Volume 1

Who Is God? (And Can I Really Know Him?) Biblical Worldview of God and Truth

Volume 2

Who Am I? (And What Am I Doing Here?) Biblical Worldview of Self-Image

There is a 4th book coming up in the series too...called What On Earth Can I Do?

Basically, this third book focuses on developing a servant heart for your "neighbor".

God created me to be a blessing to the world
God chooses to work through me
I can make a difference at home, in my community, and at church
The church is God’s family
The church is one body with many gifts
I am an important member of Jesus’ body

"Two are better than one.....if one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But, pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up."-------Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

The messages in these "What I Believe" series are really awesome.  Really.   It makes you think about.....well, I guess.....What You Believe. 

Go figure.

I like to be alone.  Sometimes.  But, when I am alone too long, I crave human interaction. That is how God created it to be.  He created Eve so Adam wouldn't be alone.  He created "neighbors" for us. 

When I moved to Georgia, even though I was surrounded by Rainman and our six children.....I was lonely.  I started spending a lot of time with my refrigerator and the pantry.  Really, no substitute for people.

Once I stepped out a bit, I found some wonderful friends (thanks Debbie and Sherri) through church that helped me find my new place in the world and a new place to be needed and feel useful. 

This book uses stories involving a Chinese family that moves to America to guides you through a plethora of ways to understand God's plans for us.  Like his plan for us to bless the world, marriage, the foundation of a family, what a parent's and child's job is within the family, why we should follow the laws of the land.....and who our neighbor's are and how we should treat them. 

A bunch of really good stuff. 

Like the second book in the series, Who Am I? (And Can I Really Know Him?) series, there is a notebooking journal that works through the lessons, leads you through discussion questions about the reading assignments, and has other assignments like crossword puzzles and watching Beauty and the Beast and looking for acts of love, compassion and sacrifice.  There are also song and book ideas that tie in with the point of the lesson.

For example, some of the Lesson 1 discussion questions are:  What is interdependence?  Why is it important that every member of a team does his or her part?  What does the Bible say about what makes you valuable as a child of God?  What are some of the things you have to offer in your relationships?

If your child is willing to open up, there is the potential for some really great discussions about their place in the world and what individual, unique things they have to offer to the world and.....their neighbor.

We didn't get as far as Lesson 4, which focuses on Why Did God Make Families? and covers marriage.  I am looking forward to discussion on this....because it delves into the responsibilities carried by the husband and wife.....what "submission" means....and covenant relationships.  Good stuff.

Now, if only I can get my kids to open up and listen....but also to talk about what they have seen....what they want for themselves....what kind of spouse they want to be...not just the kind of spouse they want to have.

Again, I just really like the content in this series of What We Believe books....and I like the way they lay it out by telling stories....which then opens up the doors for discussion....which requires deeper thinking about how things are in the world and what we, as Christians, as supposed to do about it.

You can get Who Is My Neighbor?  And Why Does He Need Me? from Apologia.  The textbook is $39.00 and the Notebooking Journal is $24.00.  There is also a coloring book available for $8.00....but so far, I have been using this with my older kids, so we haven't used that. 

Take a look and see how others on the Review Crew used Who Is My Neighbor?

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Who Is My Neighbor? And Why Does He Need Me?, textbook, notebooking journal and coloring book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Professor B Math

Can you bee-leive that you could accomplish 3 years of math in 1?  Is it un-bee-leivable that you could eliminate expensive math tutoring? 

Alright, I will bee-have now.

But, that is what Professor B Math,  an on-line curriculum, offers.  Although it is not a typical  "accelerated" math program. 

We tried out a subscription to this on-line program with A-man and S-girl....even though it could have been used with all the kids (Preschool through 8th grade).  Since it is summer, A-man and S-girl were my most cooperative students!

I know this is sort of long.....but read this excerpt from their philosophy page.  In the statement, they start by talking about how the typical approach to teaching math was been very disconnected and fragmented and then goes on to say this.....

The prefix "anti" has such meanings as "against", "the opposite of", "preventing" or "counteracting". So in order to eliminate the confusion caused by giving the same name to something and its opposite, I hope the time has finally arrived to accurately rename that disconnected, fragmented content as "anti-math." Anti-math deactivates learners' natural gift for perceiving and receiving the structures within mathematics, the very academic area that studies structures (by placing large intervals of time between connected math concepts and skills). It is an absolute nuisance to mathematics education. So what was it that you "hated" or were not "good at"? It was not math; it was anti-math!

(I wonder if people will understand me when I tell them that I wasn't very good at "anti-math" from now on?!?)
If two people tell the same story, their words are different (and also different from the original version) but the events are the same and are recalled in the same sequence. Hence there is no intentional and laborious memorization of words, as in the learning of a poem. What children effortlessly (naturally) perceive, receive and retain from a story, therefore, is the structured connection and flow of its events: its internal contextual dynamics of relationships. If I say the words "woods", "wolf", "grandma", they are likely to immediately reactivate, after all these years, a structured dynamics of relationships entitled "Little Red Riding Hood". This is the genius in virtually all children for learning mathematics. Our methodology activates this universal genius for mastery learning of math by ensuring that children experience it the same way they experience stories: as connected and flowing.

If math were a story, I think I would be really good at it.

You should know by now, I am not totally in love with on-line schooling.  Partly because I don't like kids just sitting in front of a screen all day....but, also a big part of the reason is that when they do school at the computer, I am very removed from the process and don't really know what...or if....they are learning.

One of my problems is taken away with Professor B.  So, let's start with the basics. 

Professor a bee.

He "talks" through the little cartoon bubble thingies.  The program is designed for you to sit with your child and read aloud what Professor B has to say.  So, you see exactly what they are learning and if they are having trouble with anything. 

One  point of interest, is that there is no sound at all on their pages.  None.  No music.  No voices.  No catchy little songs that drive you crazy.  Some people may find it boring, but I found it soothing and it felt more "school-like".

Their website shows smiling parents with children perched on their laps working on their math together.

At our house, it was more like this.... smiles....hands and heads trying to peer over their heads and see what I am supposed to be saying for Professor B....

A-man is getting too big to sit on my lap, S-girl is wiggly and has a boney rear, we don't have a lot of room at our, I couldn't really see the mouse....or the monitor easily.  Our desk is a little desk sort of shoved into a corner.  So, honestly, that part of using Professor B was uncomfortable.  

I liked that I was involved and knew what they were working was just physically uncomfortable the way our area is set up.  It would probably work better with a laptop at the dining room table or something where you can spread out a little bit.  Then maybe I would be one of those smiling parents in the pictures.....

We started in Level 1.  Here is how the different levels breakdown.

Level IPreschool - 2nd grade Introduction to Addition/Subtraction Facts – Counting to One Hundred – Lower Addition and Subtraction – Higher Addition and Subtraction – Place Value Fractional Parts & Order – Time – Money
LevelII                3rd grade - 5th grade  
               Multiplication/Division Facts and Problem Solving – Introduction to Fractions –               Fractional Equivalence – Addition and Subtraction Fractions
Level  III           6th - 8th grades 
           Multiplication/Division of Fractions – Decimals – Percents

You could plug your student in at any level if they are younger and more advanced, they can just keep on moving....or if they are having a little trouble, you can have them start at a lower level to gain some confidence before moving on.

Not sure which level to start in? There is a free placement test to help you out.

The lesson content really starts out super basic.  Let me emphasize that again.....super basic. 

How many fingers is this?.... kind of stuff.  But, it adds the slightly harder part for little hands to have them imitate what is on the screen.  Like, if you are working on the number 5 and identifying it.....they would have you hold up the various combinations of fingers you can hold up to get 5. 

This definitely slows down the lesson as you wait for the kids to make their fingers cooperate....but, I think it is an important step for them to get the physical reminder of all the different ways you can make numbers. is all part of the story....

This program really is a math curriculum and not just a drill program to shove the math facts into their tiny, little heads.....although I think that is important, too.

This has the on-line lesson component, but then it also has workbook pages, or as they call them, facility exercises, to help solidify the concepts.  This is where you can let your students work on stuff by themselves because they have the answers (for you to use) included at the end of the manual. 

I am looking forward to using Professor B to help get away from "anti-math" and into storybook math when we are officially back to school in a few weeks.  I will keep you posted.

You can try out Professor B On-Line E Learning for free for 30 days.

Or try some sample lessons.

Once you are sold on Professor B, you can get a pay as you go option for  $20 per month for access to one level....or a yearly subscription.  There is a discounted rate if you need to access more than one level for your different students. 

See what other the TOS Review Crew thought of Professor B.

Disclaimer:  I received a subscription to Professos B's online E learning for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Take Me Out To A Really Hot Ballgame

We just got back from another road trip.  This one was up to Indiana for Rainman's reunion and then all the way up to Minnesota for my niece, Kaitlin's wedding.  Before heading back home, we stopped in Chicago and caught a White Sox game. 

I am going to start at the end of our trip with my posts just because I saw this picture.....

We picked up Rainman's mom so she could come with us.  She has been a sport's fan her whole life.  She used to sit on her dad's lap while they listened to the baseball game on their little transistor radio.  He played cards and she would write down the game statistics.  She watches ESPN....even when her boy's aren't visiting.  Really.

We picked the perfect game to attend....well, except for the heat.

It was Polish Heritage Night.  Rainman's dad was Polish and only spoke Polish at home.  Rainman remembers going to Busha's house for Sunday dinner every week and having a few Polish phrases memorized so he could talk to her.  Rainman's mom is Slovak....but has been cooking Polish food for years.

There was Polish music....and Polish Dancers!

There were the usual nummy hotdogs and there was even Polish L-girl is showing you in this picture!

I was there there....

I couldn't complain too much though because there was a lot of action.  The White Sox beat the Texas Rangers 19-2.


It was still about 95 degrees at 9:30.  Yuck!

But, to see my boys this happy....

....was worth it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lightning Lit and Composition - Review

These kinds of things are hard to review during the summer months.  The little darlings don't really want to "do" school...add in a little Vacation Bible School, plus traveling to go see family....and it gets even harder.  This summer we have gone to Indiana for a family reunion and Minnesota for my niece's wedding.  We drove from Georgia for both events.....with a little van trouble along the way just to make things interesting!

We got to try out the British Literature (Early to Mid 19th Century) guide, available through Hewitt Homeschool, which had the books, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Ivanhoe, and Pride and a few poems and magazine serial short stories.  It is recommended for grades 10-12.

How it works:

There are a total of 8 lessons divided into 4 units:

    - Introduction
    - Comprehension Questions (these can be used like quizzes and all the answers are found in 
       the Teacher's Guide)
    - Literary Lesson
    - Writing Exercises

The Teacher's Guide, like I said, has the answers to the comprehension questions included, but also has a lot of grading tips, checklists and templates that come in handy when you are trying to grade the writing exercises. 

If you don't want to grade the papers yourself, you can enroll with Hewitt and they will do the grading for you.

I liked some of the tips for grading.....I really would have liked them when I was writing papers.  Tips like, don't mark everything that is wrong and, make sure you include positive comments.  The hardest tip for me to follow will be.....don't rewrite it yourself....let the student do the work. 

For setting this up in your curriculum, they have included a semester schedule plan that assumes an 18 week semester.....but there is also another option of 36 weeks and stretching it out for a full year.  You can stick your own breaks and vacations in, as needed. 

The first week is a doozy.....but, I sort of like the fact that they warn you up front that the first week is going to be the hardest.  I figure if you can make it through the first week, the rest of the course will be easy going!

From the student's perspective, I think the book is easy to follow and they throw in a lot of information, but a few little funnies too.  Like, even the quote from Mark Twain, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug."

I love the honesty of the author, Michael G. Gaunt.  He admits that even he hates being forced to read something, so he understands that students may not be super excited to start this course. 

He also lets the cat out of the bag that the bulk of writing is actually..... rewriting.  Gasp!

He also addresses the "Movies....Or Not?" question.  (FYI he says, "not" - because he has never found a movie version of a classic book that lived up to the original.  Me either!)

When this question is raised in our household, I will play the Harry Potter and Hunger Games card....not necessarily great, classic literature....but the movies really don't compare to the books, do they?

Each lesson gives a glimpse into the real lives of the authors; details about what the student will be reading; questions to keep in their minds while they read; then, after reading, they answer the comprehension questions; then there is a section on literary lessons (tone of the work, characterization, etc) and then finishing up with their own writing assignment.  

British Literature Early to Mid 19th-Century mainly covers:

1.  William Blake
2.  Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
3.  Sir Walter Scott - Ivanhoe
4.  Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
5.  Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre
6.  William Makepeace Thackeray (which is a short story that is a parody of Sir Walter Scott - which I will admit that I found pretty funny - that the very book that studies Sir Walter Scott's contribution to literature then turns right around and shows how people made fun of him!  See?  Honesty)

There are other short pieces included - mostly in the romantic poets section.....and these are included in the student text.

There are lots of other literature guides available through Hewitt Homeschooling like American Literature series and Shakespeare studies.  The Lightning Literature series starts in 7th grade  and moves all the way through 12th grade.  The tag line for our book says "Acquiring College-Level Composition Skills by Responding to Great Literature. 

If my kids can have anything at "college-level" by the time they go to college, I will be a happy mom.  I really liked this course for both its content and the way it is laid out for both D-man and myself and plan to continue using them and move onto both American Literature, and the other British Literature studies.

You can get the entire British Lit - Early to Mid 19th Century pack, that includes all the books you will need for $48.39.  Or, you can just get the student guide for $29.95 and the teacher guide for $2.95 and come up with the actual books that are needed on your own.

If you want to take a look at samples of what is included in these courses, take a look at

Other members of the Review Crew got to try out different guides, so go take a look at what they thought. 

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Lightning Lit & Comp - British Literature: Early - Mid 19th Century Student and Teacher Guide for free in exchange for an honest review.